Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins

Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by CloudTask CEO, Amir Reiter, and VP of Marketing, Tom Jenkins, to discuss outsourcing and how to adapt in today’s dynamic markets. CloudTask is an outsourced sales organization that allows leaders to focus on scaling their businesses while giving them the ability to hire state-of-the-art sales and customer success support teams, on demand 24/7. Both guests are committed to providing the right tools organizations need to create wow-worthy support and thrive in the digital landscape. For great insights on the benefits of outsourcing, listen to the full podcast below.

Why Outsourcing is the Right Answer

Outsourcing is a highly discussed topic in the business world. Most of the time it is used as a tactic to save money and increase profit. To describe it generally, it’s when outside experts help build your business or processes. The better the business processes and training programs are, the easier and more effective outsourcing can be. Amir ties together outsourcing and customer service by saying, “We’re seeing an influx of inquiries now because people aren’t prepared for remote customer support. And I think whether or not you outsource or don’t outsource, if you build a solid training program and a solid repeatable process, it’s just a matter of having smart people who represent your company the right way.” While outsourcing can potentially benefit multiple areas of a company, it’s most important to focus your efforts on having a repeatable process and a good training program.

Outsourcing That Works

Once businesses decide that they are going to outsource, it’s usually difficult to determine which company/individual to hire. To assist in this decision making process, Amir and Tom mention two things. First, you need to have a good grasp on your company and its purpose to ensure that the other company will mesh with yours. Amir states, “Look for culture that matches yours. Look for teammates that you enjoy working with. Look for a company that adds value, that has experience and can bring their experience to the table, whether it comes to training, processes, technology, templates.”

In addition to that, to make sure outsourcing is effective, it’s important to remember that outsourced people are still part of the team. Tom adds, “I’d say even though it is outsourcing as well, still think of it, it’s your team. We just join your organization. The closer we work together, the better the results are going to be. We love it when people come to our offices, people bring their own trainers or even their account managers. And you know, we go hiking, we go out for dinner afterwards. The closer we work together the better the results are going to be.” In other words, make sure that outsourced individuals connect with your company and feel like they’re a part of the team. When you do that productivity will increase and the team will have a positive experience overall.

The Importance of Empathy

In a more serious and sensitive tone, Amir and Tom also go into the current COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how it is affecting the B2B, B2C relationships. They discuss the importance of empathy, understanding, community, and a balance between life and work. Understanding your team and culture will help increase the desire to understand the customer. Tom explains:

It’s about understanding what exactly is going on, both in your business, but also in your life and how you can support, again, not just through your business, but everybody is looking to each other to create more community. And the more community you create, the better it’s going to be for your business. That’s not why you want them to do it. You know, you want to do it because we’re human beings and we want to support each other. The more human you are, the more everybody is going to benefit; business and life.

Community and empathy are essential characteristics of a business that wants to grow quickly and authentically. Outsourcing the right way is going to help businesses scale while delivering on customers’ expectations. To learn more about Amir Reiter, Tom Jenkins, CloudTask and outsourcing, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Bring in the Experts: Why Outsource Your Customer Service Team With Amir Reiter & Tom Jenkins

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)
Alright welcome everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about, I think it will be a fun topic, we’re going to talk a little bit big picture about what’s going on in the current environment. How companies B2C and B2B look at customer service differently. Then we’re going to hone in on this idea of outsourcing. How should you be thinking about your outsourced customer service strategy? Why do it? Why not do it? Some of the challenges. To do that we’ve got two gentlemen joining us. We’ve got VP of marketing, Tom Jenkins coming from CloudTask and then we’ve got CEO, Amir Reiter, from CloudTask. Guys, thanks for joining and how are you? Amir let’s start with you.

Amir Reiter: (00:47)
We’re good. It could be better circumstances globally, but we’re good. We’re good. I’m in Miami. Tom is in Hawaii at nighttime.

Tom Jenkins: (00:59)
I’m not in Rio de Janeiro on the beach. I’m down in Medallín, Columbia. I’m looking forward to the recording.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this will be fun. I mean all of us wish it was, good point Amir, under a little different circumstances, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Before we dive in, let’s have each of you just tell us just a little more about yourself and then maybe a little more about CloudTask. Amir, let’s start with you again. So tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you guys do over there.

Amir Reiter: (01:25)
Yeah, so I’m the CEO and founder of CloudTask and we are all about allowing leaders to focus on their business and I give them the ability to hire sales, customer success support teams, on demand 24/7, multi language. And we partner with amazing technologies like Kustomer and other great tecs and sales and customer success space so we can enable best of breed, customer support, sales, and success functions.

Gabe Larsen: (01:51)
I love it. I love it. Tom, tell us a little bit about yourself. We’ve got now a little bit on CloudTask, what would you add to that or in your background?

Tom Jenkins: (01:58)
Yeah, so my background, I head the marketing team here at CloudTask, great company, great culture, been here two and a half years and yeah, I think Amir did a pretty good job explaining who we are. We’re just here to help other businesses scale and grow and yeah, I’m enjoying being part of that journey.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
Love it. Love it. Well, let’s dive into the talk track you guys. So, and Amir, let’s start with you. We were talking pre about this, I think it’s an interesting idea. Why B2C has made the investment in customer support and why B2B has been lagging a little bit?

Amir Reiter: (02:30)
I think it’s in the easy answer, right? I think the consumer in B2C has a voice. “I didn’t get my diet pills in 24 hours and I’m going to complain on chat and scream and kick and scream and I’m never going to buy from you again. I’m going to leave a review right now in real time.” Right? So I think the consumer has a louder voice in B2C and they’re quicker to share their voice. And I think B2B, it’s driven differently, right? It’s not necessarily transactional on small items where reviews can make a difference. It’s more longer agreements, contracts where somebody that signed a contract might not be there in six months, right. You could sign a million dollar contract and you can leave a company tomorrow. Right? And companies that have been growing really fast in B2B spaces have been fueled by a lot of VC money and their goals are not necessarily NPS scores. It’s kind of revenue. Now, it’s become a much more of a player in B2B because there are review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra and —

Gabe Larsen: (03:43)
[inaudible] getting a little more empowered. Right?

Amir Reiter: (03:45)
It’s catching up. Right? But that’s my opinion why. What do you think Tom?

Gabe Larsen: (03:52)
Tom, yeah. What would you add to it man?

Tom Jenkins: (03:53)
Yeah, I’d definitely say it’s a volume thing that definitely comes into it. And B2C tends to be doing much larger numbers. And then for the needs to invest in customer support was immediately more obvious. I certainly wouldn’t say more necessary because usually in B2B — well, not always, but that tends to be low volume, higher cost. But you know, at the end of the day, the revenue’s the same. At the end of the day a customer is still a person, whether it’s a business, it’s still an account manager, a sales rep, the support manager there. And they still need to be treated the same way. But it just feels like because it is a business there’s that kind of, I guess, lower level of empathy maybe. That’s really changed in the last few years and B2B’s really started to catch on as well.

Gabe Larsen: (04:43)
I agree. I agree. Some of those points –that definitely resonates with me. I’ve experienced both in a major way. What do you guys feel like, again I just want to stay a little high level and then let’s dive into outsourcing, but certainly time’s changing for B2C and B2B. What are you seeing going on and how can companies react most effectively to somehow maintain some semblance of success or whatever’s kind of going on here. Tom, we’ll start with you.

Tom Jenkins: (05:11)
Yeah. The first thing is just understanding that we’re all in this together. There’s nobody who’s not affected by this global situation. And it’s just really engaging with people, getting on the phone, coming back to that empathy again, it’s no longer about, “Oh, can I have a meeting? Can I have some more money? Can I have the renewal?” No. It’s about understanding what exactly is going on, both in your business, but also in your life and how you can support, again, not just through your business, but everybody is looking to each other to create more community. And the more community you create, the better it’s going to be for your business. That’s not why you want them to do it. You know, you want to do it because we’re human beings and we want to support each other. The more human you are, the more everybody is going to benefit; business and life.

Gabe Larsen: (06:03)
I love it. Amir, anything you’d add, kind of trends you’re seeing, ways people are handling all the changes?

Amir Reiter: (06:08)
Well, either changes, you know, when you bring up the topic changes you think of the current situation, changes in B2B and B2C support in general. Tom talked about the current environment. Let’s talk about two weeks prior to what’s happening, just B2B and B2C. I think one of the big changes we’ve seen in the last year was this concept of sales chat, right? And, “Oh my God, there are sales chats and sales engine, and we’re making money with sales chat.” But what we got to see from behind the scenes was that a lot of the sales chat people were customer support issues. And a lot of those customer support issues well, they were sales opportunities. So what’s the real change? It’s just that people kind of took a concept that probably existed for a long time and realized that, “Hey, we’re impatient and if we can talk to a human being on a website live, we like that.” Right? And we do like that, right? If I just had a customer support experience with Namecheap, I was about to buy domains and I got locked out because my credit card was declined. And then they asked me to unlock it, they said, “What’s the last four digits of your credit card?” And I said, “I’m freaking locked out because of the credit card, there’s no credit card. How am I going to know the last four digits of my credit card that locked me out?” And I had to wait for like 10 minutes for a response, because it was clear that the person was handling multiple chats. I didn’t like that because I got timed out and I had to start over a couple of times. So I think people realize that, “Hey, live chat is great, having support’s amazing, but they’re trying to always find that ratio of person to support case and what happens to support is support doesn’t look that as money generating, sometimes it’s given less resources. And I think if we look at — this is like a wish for me, right? — I think that if we can learn how to make chat support, or support people also salespeople, but not by selling and closing deals, but just by having answers, I think we can invest more in support and have more efficiency because I like to talk to the same person about maybe buying a new domain and a new problem.

Gabe Larsen: (08:19)
Fascinating.

Amir Reiter: (08:21)
That’s just me.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
That was kind of the talk of the town, right? Chat? And how we can use that deflection, being smarter, some automation. Let’s use that to dovetail into some of these conversations about outsourcing. I mean, that’s one of the things you guys have specialized in. You obviously help companies think through that. Maybe just again, on this topic, start a little more bigger picture. Why would I, as a company even start down this path? Why outsource my service center versus going inhouse?

Amir Reiter: (08:50)
That’s a good question. I think I want to answer that question, not from the lenses of CloudTask, right? I think I’m going to answer that question from the point of outsourcing and BPOs have been around for a very long time, and they’ve been around for a long time for the enterprise, right? The airlines, the big banks, right? The people who have thousands of employees. And I think whether you outsource or don’t outsource, it all comes down to having a repeatable process and having an amazing training program. Right? And if you look at the world, what’s happened recently and how everyone’s remote, you know, we’re seeing an influx of inquiries now because people aren’t prepared for remote customer support. And I think whether or not you outsource or don’t outsource, if you build a solid training program and a solid repeatable process, it’s just a matter of having smart people who represent your company the right way. And that could be through an outsource BPL, that could be people you’re hiring remotely. That could be W2’s and trainer leave. But if you have that culture of treating everybody the same internally and putting benchmarks so that everyone’s competing for the common good of a customer’s experience, I think companies win. But I’m a fan of even a blended workforce.

Amir Reiter: (10:03)
I think for me, for us, you know, we’re an outsource sales organization and we have an outsourced marketing person who helps us and he’s Tom’s best friend. So — and I also have an outsourced CFO. So we kind of preach what we saw in the sense that — find people that you mesh well with, who show up every day and who work with you and the type of engagement starts to fade away, I think.

Gabe Larsen: (10:30)
Yeah. I like that. I like that. I want to ask a follow up, but Tom, anything else you’d add or you see it slightly different?

Tom Jenkins: (10:36)
Yeah. I may have touched on it. And a big thing is the processes, especially when a lot of companies now are suddenly having to ramp up their teams really quickly. And usually when you work with an outsource provider, they’ve been there and done it over a number of years and they tweak the processes to a number of different industries, organizations, groups. And of course it still needs to be about your organization. So they are specialized to work with you to do that. As when you’re doing it first hand yourself, even if you’ve had a team for a while and suddenly have to expand it, it’s a lot of the time about not reinventing the wheel, just going with a process that you know works and there’s proof of it.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
Got it. And then this training thing. I mean, you hit on it, telling me you’re reinforcing it just a little bit, but is that kind of the thing that people don’t have the most of?

Amir Reiter: (11:30)
Oh my God, that’s what they really tell you when they say, I don’t want to outsource. They’re basically like, I have not invested in a full time training department and I am more comfortable looking over someone’s shoulder, which they never really do because you don’t really have time to look over somebody’s shoulder, but that has been the number one underlying objection that I have felt. And I get it, right? I think it’s hard for a leader to be like, “Hey, like I don’t have state of the art training program. And that’s why I’m scared of working with you guys.” It’s a lot easier to say, “I just don’t outsource.” Right? But that’s kind of what I’ve seen, but I think that —

Gabe Larsen: (12:02)
And what does a state of the art training —

Amir Reiter: (12:04)
I’m glad you asked.

Gabe Larsen: (12:08)
What does that look like? And Tom, you can add in on this one. Amir, go.

Amir Reiter: (12:12)
Yeah. I would say a training program that is nimble and changes with the influx of the class that comes in. An ongoing program that supports and rewards reps for taking part in advanced training on an ongoing process. And that’s just like from high level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
Got it. Got it. Tom, what would you add to that?

Tom Jenkins: (12:34)
Yeah. And ultimately it comes down to having an awesome training team as well. Making– because we’ve all sat through training where it’s like death by PowerPoint, having trainers who really know how to keep things fun, light, and make sure everybody’s chipping in and getting engaged and doing. That’s when knowledge is maintained. And then having live coaching as well. It’s not just go train, go and do your thing. You need people, you need the managers, QAing calls listening in saying what’s working, what’s not, and constantly kind of having those little incremental gains to keep improving.

Gabe Larsen: (13:15)
Yeah. It is. People are thinking about outsourcing. If you had to leave them with a couple of pieces of advice, what would be — You know, “Should I outsource? Should I keep my team?” What would you leave them with Amir? Best practice, advice, takeaways, tips, tricks?

Amir Reiter: (13:33)
Look for culture that matches yours. Look for teammates that you enjoy working with. Look for, look for a company that adds value, that has experience and can bring their experience to the table, whether it comes to training, processes, technology, templates. And look to take the word outsource and save money out of your mind. That’s a byproduct. Look at outsource as in, I’m bringing in experts. And when those experts work with me, I gain those expertise and if they have something that I don’t have I’m going to tell them — and that’d be my biggest takeaway.

Gabe Larsen: (14:04)
I love it. I love it. Tom, what would you, from an advice perspective or people who are considering going one way or another?

Tom Jenkins: (14:11)
Yeah. I’d say even though it is outsourcing as well still think of it, it’s your team. We just join your organization. The closer we work together, the better the results are going to be. We love it when people come to our offices, people bring their own trainers in or even their account managers. And you know, we go hiking, we go out for dinner afterwards. The closer we work together the better the results are going to be.

Amir Reiter: (14:37)
Unfortunately the days of working for a Boeing and retiring at a Boeing are over and employees are moving around for organization, organization and you’d be very surprised. You can have a teammate who’s internal, who’s there 10 years. You can have a rep who’s representing a company through an outsource agreement who is there for 10 years. Right? It’s no more black and white, I think, as it used to be.

Gabe Larsen: (14:59)
Yeah. Yeah. Do you, one last question before I let you guys go, you kind of hit on this Amir and I’m just curious. There has been a lot of outsource companies, a lot of, been a lot of BPOs over the years. What would separate different BPOs? Is it their technology stack? Is it their training? You mentioned the training being a big differentiator, really important. How would someone start to navigate just thinking, “Oh, Gabe, there’s so many of these. I don’t know how to choose.”

Amir Reiter: (15:25)
I think the ones that have been around for 30 years will have the money on the balance sheet, the certifications through the roof, but they will lack with culture being nimble and technology. And then younger ones will be very quick. They’re the ones on podcasts with technologies like Kustomer. And so it’s just like you can imagine, right? I think you’ll find that younger BPOs will be more nimble. There’ll be more reading the articles about artificial intelligence automation while the big ones will be like, that scares me. We’ve got $4 billion in business and this is how we’ve been doing it for 30 years. And that works for some organizations, it doesn’t work for others that move quickly. So find a company that matches your size, your speed, how they’re invested, they’re invested like you, you guys are both bootstrapped.

Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
I like that.

Amir Reiter: (16:12)
Private equity backed. Right. It feels good. It feels like a natural fit.

Gabe Larsen: (16:15)
Yeah. Anything you’d add to that Tom?

Tom Jenkins: (16:17)
Yeah. Most people are outsourcing now. So understand what they’re currently doing, get peer reviews, check out the reviews online on G2, for example, and just speak to a few different teams. Find the one you like the most and give it a shot. And I’m sure they’ll work.

Gabe Larsen: (16:41)
I love it. I love it. All right you guys, well really fun talk track. I think it’s very pertinent, especially as we’re all working remotely and times have certainly changed and I think people are probably more open to just doing things different. So I think it’s a very timely discussion around B2B, B2C, but also, and then this kind of remote and outsource workforce. If someone wants to learn more about you guys, CloudTask, what’s the best way to do that or get a hold of your, or kind of see what you guys are all about?

Amir Reiter: (17:06)
We’ve got live chat on our website, or you can find me on LinkedIn Amir Reiter, real easy to find. And Tom, Tom is everywhere.

Tom Jenkins: (17:16)
We are everywhere, social, cloudtask.com, LinkedIn.

Amir Reiter: (17:19)
Wherever the social cause in the world that’s where Tom is.

Gabe Larsen: (17:22)
That’s where Tom is. All right. Well, I think that’s good. Really appreciate you guys taking the time and for the audience, I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Amir Reiter: (17:29)
Thanks Gabe.

Tom Jenkins: (17:29)
Thanks so much.

Exit Voice: (17:37)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

The Art of the Conversation with Dionne Mischler

The Art of the Conversation with Dionne Mischler TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Dionne Mischler, founder and CEO of Inside Sales by Design. Dionne has been in the sales industry for more than 20 years, and founded her company 5 years ago to help businesses build and scale their inside sales infrastructure. In her discussion with Gabe she shares valuable steps for helping improve inside sales and provides several examples. Her insights are valuable for anyone looking to turn their cost centers into revenue centers. Listen to the full podcast episode below.

Insights on the Art of Conversation

One thing mentioned heavily in the podcast episode with Dionne Mischler is the importance of making interactions with customers, especially when it comes to inside sales. People are lacking in their skills to be conversationalists, but when customer service reps and inside sales teams tap into this ability they will have significant advantages. Dionne states the following about the importance of making it a conversation or the exchanging of ideas:

I call it the art of the conversation because back in the day, before TV, people had salons. … So you would go to — and you would want to go to different salons. In our day we would call them round tables because of who was leading this particular discussion. And so that’s what we want to be known as is a good conversationalist. This person listened, they answered my questions, they asked me good questions in return, they were seeking to understand if I had to use the Covey language.

Training employees to be good conversationalists is one of the first steps in building a strong inside sales team.

How to Make a Conversationalist Out of Your Employee

To help businesses train their reps and teams, Dionne mentions three parts of the process. First, having a precall list is a necessary step. Step two, which is also a part of step one, is imagining different scenarios that could happen on a call. By doing this and mapping out responses, reps will be more confident and create an exceptional experience for the customer. Practice is another important part of building a conversationalist. Dionne mentions practicing the pre call plan several times in the episode. She has companies go through practice situations so they can be ready for the actual calls. She shares an example of this process by saying:

So we have a handout, we give everybody [something called] a conversation tree and we’ll pair people up. But as we’re making calls, we’ve got people writing or capturing it, with whatever tool they have to follow the conversation tree at the end of the day. So it’s really about identifying, what do you think you’re going to get, let’s build up some talk tracks, let’s test and measure, let’s open the call, let’s ask the questions to navigate and bridge. … And then we do follow up. … When you put it together, it’s an excellent experience at the end.

Characteristics of a Positive and Effective Outbound Call

Later in the episode, Dionne starts to talk more and more about the outbound calls and the real purpose of inside sales teams. Some of the principles are the same as the training principles for any other call, but the specific differences make an impact. The first thing is to, again, do pre call planning. To state it clearly she says, “We never, ever, ever, ever wing a call.” Going through the same process above and preparing for different scenarios is a necessary step. Next, we must remember our purpose in reaching out to the customer. Dionne states, “We always have a purpose for the call and the purpose isn’t to get an order, that is a byproduct. The purpose is to call and make sure our customer is aware of whatever the case may be.” Sales reps often have negative thoughts around them but Dionne mentions clearly that the purpose of inside sales teams is to help the customer know of changes and possible benefits they would miss out on otherwise. Making a sale is not the point. Inside sales reps that focus on the correct purpose will see better results and see their cost centers become revenue centers.

Additionally, navigating the call and using bridging statements and pressure tests are characteristics of an effective outbound call. In this section of the podcasts, Dionne uses some examples of actual statements she recommends that will help the call flow, keep the customer happy, and increase the probability of the call fulfilling its purpose. Here are some of the bridge statements and pressure tests she recommends:

So the purpose of my call was to see if you’d be interested in this new service. Here’s why you might be interested in that new service. Other folks are interested because …” So when we think about the navigating piece, it’s also some bridging statements as well. … “So I’m calling because you might find interest because … what do you think of that? Is that something you might find interesting?” So it’s pressure testing and then … “Oh, if you are interested, what do you think about this in your organization?”… “Oh, okay. Well, who else in your organization would want to hear about this?

Lastly, Dionne advocates for the importance of integrity and making the follow up process smooth for both sides. It is important to set clear expectations about the next steps so that there is no confusion. Especially when there are follow up calls and meetings scheduled during the conversation, be courteous and understanding and follow up with the topics and meetings discussed in the call. Dionne gives one final piece of advice stating, “Just again, operate in a mindset of common courtesy and what would you like to have happen.” By planning calls, navigating them well and closing them with courtesy and the appropriate follow up information, cost centers really will become revenue centers.”

To learn more about Inside Sales by Design, Dionne Mischler and inside sales infrastructure, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

Listen Now:

Listen to “How Conversations Can Turn Your Cost Center into a Profit Center | Dionne Mischler, Inside Sales By Design” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Art of the Conversation with Dionne Mischler

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)
Alright welcome everybody. We’re excited to talk about this idea of taking a cost center and turning it into a revenue center on the post sales side of the house. I think this is going to be a fun conversation. Dionne Mischler and I go way back, not too far back. When did we first chat and when was that? That was — it’s got to be three years, right? Three years ago?

Dionne Mischler: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. Three to five, something like that. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
But she has become even more of a rock star since then. She runs an organization called Inside Sales by Design. She is the CEO and founder of that. And she’ll talk about that more in just a minute, but really has helped people focus on, in that space, becoming their best selves in this remote environment. And as the world continues to change some of these trends of; how do you take this idea from a sales perspective and translate that to a customer service or a customer success perspective, just becoming so needed and so applicable that as Dionne and I were talking we thought, we out to — this is probably the time to do that. Let’s jump into that. So I’m excited to dive into that talk track, but before we do, tell us just a little bit more about yourself and kind of what you do at Inside Sales by Design.

Dionne Mischler: (01:25)
Absolutely. Thank you for having me first and foremost Gabe. I really appreciate it and super excited to talk about this topic. We’re seeing this as a huge trend that is gaining the appropriate momentum. So a little bit more about my background. I am still self-identifying as a Midwesterner born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, right? I’m lucky to live in Southern California now and, been in sales and tech for the last 20 some odd years at this point; built and scaled a bunch of different inside sales teams. We’re in our fifth year at Inside Sales by Design and we work with organizations to stand up the right way hopefully and help them build their inside sales infrastructures, is what we call it, to stand up their teams. So we’ve been super fortunate with that and very lucky.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
I love it. I love it. Yeah. Right. It’s been a long journey, sales so long, but I’m excited to have you join us in this customer service customer success world. So let’s dive into it. Big picture, I just love that statement, “How do you turn your cost center into a revenue center?” Thoughts on that, that idea, the trend, is that the right thing to do? Give me your quick response.

Dionne Mischler: (02:35)
Yeah, absolutely. So I was talking with a colleague of mine and he says, we live in an experience economy at this point, right? And here’s my bold prediction, right? If you, as an organization are not investing in your customer success team, turning that corner from an order taker, ticket taker, cost center to profit center, your company is going to die and wither in the dust at the end of the day. So the time is now to take those appropriate steps and train your people at the end of the day. So the big picture is this is an excellent opportunity to interact with your customers in a proactive, thoughtful way that leads your customers going, “Wow. That was a really great interaction.” Because a lot of customers aren’t used to getting that at this point.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Yeah, no, I think that word right is becoming more and more powerful. It’s that experience, right? Especially as the times change, right? We’re obviously in interesting times with all that is going on and a lot of the chatter I’ve heard between colleagues and friends is we’ve got to maintain and if not, if possible, grow our current customer base, right? How do we do that in a way that is structured and valuable and viable. And this idea of proactive outreach, this idea of managing the experience, this idea of not just answering their questions, but giving them even more than they want, I think can be a real game changer. So as you think about this, and I want to get into the tactics in just a few minutes, but how do you think organizations should start thinking about this idea? Obviously it’s important. Where do you kind of start down this journey if you want to go do it?

Dionne Mischler: (04:10)
Yeah, absolutely. So any idea of this magnitude, we’re talking about huge change management in an organization, right? So we definitely need an executive sponsor. We need somebody that is behind it. We need somebody that can paint the picture, call out the vision and care enough about their people and their team to be able to do it and do it well. Secondarily is going to be a frontline leader that can execute on that vision and just keep driving it home. And then I think thirdly, is if you’ve got the expertise internally to make this turn by all means, do it. If you’ve got training, enablement, whatever the case may be, we’re going to definitely want to utilize all of those things. But I think too, the biggest hurdle sometimes with our customer success teams. Right? And so for us on a side note is as much as we’ve been standing up inside sales teams, weather and inside sales is an umbrella statement, right? So people ask me all the time, “So, inside sales, what is that?” And I was like, SDR BDR, Inside Sales AE, Inside Sales Account Manager, take your pick.

Gabe Larsen: (05:17)
Yeah. I like that concept. We were talking pre recording here about this remote environment which we’ve all now been forced into, but that’s, I think kind of been the fundamental stock of an inside sales is anybody that’s operating in a remote conversation format is almost falling into that category. Right?

Dionne Mischler: (05:38)
Absolutely. And on a very other interesting note right now we have all of our outside sales folks are becoming inside sales. But what we’re finding is the more we started working with organizations and because we build frameworks and because we focus on the fundamentals and we focus on training teams to have a conversation, and we were getting tapped by the organization and other leaders in the organization to provide some of that training, for lack of better term, and some of that knowledge to other departments as well.

Gabe Larsen: (06:10)
And that’s kind of where you started to get your foray into this part of the world. So I love that big picture, you know, the executive sponsor you’re right. A lot of change management, but I want to click on this idea of this training and enablement because when it comes to it, yeah. I think always, leaders, we want some of that brass tacks. What does it actually mean? And this is where you guys are specialized, doing so much training on the sales side of coaching people on that idea of a conversation. So maybe let’s go there. How do you think about this idea? And maybe start again a little higher level, but the art of a conversation, you talk about that. What is that and why do you start there?

Dionne Mischler: (06:44)
Yeah. And that’s a good, good question. Gabe, with all of that I’m actually working with an organization to write a book on prospecting– or an ebook on prospecting cause it’s shorter. But one of the chapters in there is about conversation, right? And what is conversation? It is an exchange of ideas between two folks, right? And what is the purpose of conversation is to enable communication, which is the sharing of ideas back and forth. Right? So whenever we start engaging with folks, we always, always, always focus on mindset, right? Because there’s this inherent, “I never thought I wanted to be in sales or I’m in customer success or account management so I don’t do sales.” Let me tell you something. Anytime we engage with somebody we are selling, right. If your kid comes to you for something and you say, no, what is their first reaction to try to sell you on something? My kids do it all the time. Right? So wherever you are, right. A lot of our interactions every day are about persuading and getting something, not in a nefarious way, but it’s just how we are.

Gabe Larsen: (07:49)
But it’s funny because as I hear you say that it’s right. It’s like, we’ve kind of put sales in a box and sometimes we’re using this experience management, but really at the fundamental core of that, that is a desire to increase lifetime value of a customer to provide enough loyalty that they recommend you and advocacy that they buy more from you. And so all of those things kind of root themselves in sales, but sales has a little bit of a negative connotation.

Dionne Mischler: (08:17)
One hundred percent. Now if we say the resilient part, being told no, having to overcome objections like that. That definitely is a little bit different. Right? But what we’re talking about here is more about the experience, right? So in reading the go giver, sell more, they call out that the root word of sale is sala, which means to serve, right? So, double-check, go to dictionary.com There’s some validity in that and so I think the more we approach talking with people from a thoughtful serving perspective, what can we give versus what can we get? Our, our head is in a different spot. Right? And if we know, because as humans, if we’re calling in someplace, I mean, to be perfectly frank, I expect anytime I have to call somewhere, I expect it to be a bad experience.

Gabe Larsen: (09:14)
This data — we were on with Matt Dixon, the old Challenger Sale, also wrote The Effortless Experience. So he’s also playing on both sides of the fence there, but yeah, he was like, truthfully, anytime there is an engagement with somebody, he’s like, we basically find that people are, they become less satisfied. So yeah. You’re actually correct. I think I needed to back that.

Dionne Mischler: (09:37)
Yeah. And so nobody’s really done themselves any favors, right? So some — which is unfortunate, right? So now we were taking this broad brush approach. But I’ve got to tell ya, I’ve had more positive experiences calling into places lately than I’ve had not positive experiences. So I think there’s this shift, and I would also say that as we are engaging organizations, I’m seeing across the spectrum of generations and whether it’s an SDR team AE team or on the customer success side, we’re seeing a lot of folks really embracing and digging in going, “tell me how to do this better.” So if you’re that executive going, we’ve got to make this turn first off, you’re right because if you don’t, you’re going to be left in the dust and secondarily is, your people are probably starving for help and really want to do good work. So enable them, empower them to do that good work. And it starts with the mindset and then it starts with, however you want to train them to have a conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:50)
I love that. I think that’s right. You’re right. And that’s kind of a shift that I think a lot of organizations are starting to go for and they’re going to need to as times continue to change. So let’s click into this conversation concept because I do think it’s a nice kind of simple structure. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a sales support, service support to kind of go through that. So walk us maybe through that and how you start to think about coaching organizations to manage that; that art of the conversation.

Dionne Mischler: (11:15)
Yeah. And so we do, I call it the art of the conversation because back in the day before TV people had salons. It’s true. So you would go to, and you would want to go to different salons in our day, we would call them round tables, right because of who was leading this particular discussion. And so that’s what we want to be known as is a good conversationalist. This person listened, they answered my questions, they asked me good questions in return, they were seeking to understand, if I had to use the Covey language. So I think when we teach the art of conversation, we start with the mindset, we lay the contextual groundwork and then we go into the five steps of pre call planning. We go into, open the call, navigate, close, and then follow up. On this particular side, if we’re looking at customer service and folks who are fielding inbound, what we might want to consider doing is think about the different scenarios you have coming at you.

Gabe Larsen: (12:15)
Yep. And for that pre call. So kind of for step one, right. You kind of think about —

Dionne Mischler: (12:22)
Yeah. And so from an inbound perspective your spectrums might be a little bit bigger. Really try to figure out your different scenarios that would be coming at your team and also measure it. And then as you have these different scenarios, work with your team on different talk tracks, right? So we have a handout, we give everybody that’s a conversation tree and we’ll pair people up. But as we’re making calls, we’ve got people writing or capturing it, with whatever tool they have to follow the conversation tree at the end of the day. So it’s really about identifying, what do you think you’re going to get, let’s build up some talk tracks, let’s test and measure, let’s open the call, let’s ask the questions to navigate and bridge. We use bridging statements quite a bit. And then we close the call and we’re quick about that. And then we do follow up. And so if we do those five things really well, when you put it together, it’s an excellent experience at the end.

Gabe Larsen: (13:24)
Yeah. You tied it back into experience. I love that. So I like the idea on the pre call because let’s go through each of these just shortly so I can make sure I understand it. So on the pre call I liked the idea, sometimes if you get an inbound, a lot of these service and success reps are starting to go outbound. What is kind of the key principle in that pre call planning if you’re going outbound.

Dionne Mischler: (13:43)
Yeah. So when we —

Gabe Larsen: (13:45)
When you’re being proactive. We say not really outbound, but more proactive outreach if you’re customer service.

Dionne Mischler: (13:49)
Yeah, yeah. So first off, yes, that should be happening. Everybody needs a phone call, an outbound something to make them feel good. A girlfriend, a colleague of mine calls that, “Everybody wants to be the unique snowflake.” So, I think when we, again, we teach this, we have a couple of key concepts that we work with folks on is one; we always do pre call planning. We never, ever, ever, ever wing a call there’s no, no, no, no, no, no. We always have a purpose for the call and the purpose isn’t to get an order, that is a byproduct. The purpose is to call and make sure our customer is aware of whatever the case may be.

Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. X, Y, and Z. Yeah. Or update them on something or maybe even in this case, maybe we, — again I don’t think it’s unheard of that you start to see people kind of doing something that is more quote unquote sales related. Let’s let them know about a new product that we’re trying to get them to understand.

Dionne Mischler: (14:44)
Yeah, absolutely. “I was thinking about you the other day or this came up in conversation. So the reason for my call …” so we have some opening, we have Madlib fill-ins basically for folks. So we always say, when you’re doing your pre call planning, what are the things that you need to know going into this call? What is the purpose of the call? And then what is your opening? And then how are you segwaying into the meat of the call at the end of the day? And it’s always two sentences, ask a question.

Gabe Larsen: (15:14)
Just in general, you’re saying it’s two sentences and ask a question or just in these first three steps?

Dionne Mischler: (15:23)
Yeah. So it might be, “Hi, this is Dionne with Inside Sales by Design. The reason for my call is we wanted to let you know, we put a lot of our curriculum online. I know I caught you at a bad time. Do you have 30 seconds to schedule something for tomorrow?”

Gabe Larsen: (15:35)
Right. Right. Got it. So you knock it out and then you follow it up with a question. And then as you kind of move past that pre call and open call, I like that kind of example. That’s always helpful to hear something tangible. Then you move into that step three, which was navigate the call. As the conversation starts to move on, how do you get there and how do you manage that appropriately? And again, you’ve got proactive and reactive situations.

Dionne Mischler: (15:58)
Yeah. So there’s a couple of things. So here you’re outbound calling, people aren’t expecting our call. We need to be mindful of that. So are we truly going to go into a call? Are we going to try to schedule some more time? It’s again, choose your own adventure.

Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
Yeah, that makes sense.

Dionne Mischler: (16:11)
So the key is to, as we’ve identified our scenarios, is to practice our talk tracks until we get them right. We want to listen to ourselves, record roleplay, all that good stuff. So as we are in our live calls, we can pressure test our assumptions for the purpose of the call, right? Listening in a call, active listening in a call and being able to respond is hard. That’s why we want to keep practicing our lines at the end of the day. And so as we’re going through and navigating, we want to have some standard questions, right? “So the purpose of my call was to see if you’d be interested in this new service. Here’s why you might be interested in that new service. Other folks are interested because … right?” So when we think about the navigating piece, it’s also some bridging statements as well. There is some of those navigating and those bridging, right? “So I’m calling because you might find interest because … what do you think of that? Is that something you might find interesting?” So it’s pressure testing and then to — what you were saying before, you can dive a little bit deeper and “Oh, if you are interested, what do you think about this in your organization?”

Gabe Larsen: (17:17)
Yeah. So you do try to, I like the word pressure test, so you push them a little bit, but you’re kind of asking some probing questions. Might get into a good dialogue, may not. You go through a couple of different items there and hopefully something sticks or the conversation starts to get a little more meaty. Is there, in that portion, do you try to be thoughtful on timing as well? I mean, if they start to really get into it and they’re responding with kind of meaty or longer answers, do you try to stop that at some point? Or do you just, if that conversation needs to go, you just take it where it goes in that particular time frame, that particular chunk of the call sequence?

Dionne Mischler: (17:55)
Absolutely. I would say stay with it as long as possible. Again, pressure testing as you go. Right? Not saying trials are close because sometimes people need to talk. Right? So be that person. But definitely pressure test. If somebody is really excited about it, go, “Oh, okay. Well, who else in your organization would want to hear about this?” In our line of work, you just never know what’s going on in an organization. So let them talk. And then if the goal of the call, the purpose of the call was to schedule next steps, schedule a demo, whatever the case may be to again, further confirm that this is a good offering for that company because we’re here to serve. Then great, we’ve achieved our purpose.

Gabe Larsen: (18:40)
I see. I see. And then how do you kind of bring that to close? And then I like that kind of close and add value part. How do you bring that to be?

Dionne Mischler: (18:47)
Yeah. So to go back real quick too, when we kick this off with folks, we always talk about tone and being confident and even if the words coming out of your mouth are jumbled, if you sound confident, you’re going to go a lot further than somebody who doesn’t, right? So own it and get after it right to quote a few folks there. And so when we close on it, and if we’re calling to schedule a meeting or talk about a new product or whatever the case may be, a new line of service for folks, it’s a matter of saying, “Well, it sounds like this might be a really good fit. Here’s what’s going to happen next. You’re going to get an email for me. Do you have a calendar available? I’ll send you an email with additional information. I’ll send you a calendar invite for a time that works for everybody. Please feel free to forward it. And then from there, I’ll connect with you on LinkedIn as well. Thank you so much. Have a nice day.”

Gabe Larsen: (19:37)
Got it, got it. So you kind of direct that next step. And then do you leave it at that? Or what’s that, that final thing that follow up that you mentioned something else that you kind of put a cherry on top?

Dionne Mischler: (19:48)
Absolutely. So integrity is everything, right? So what we want to be able to do in this process again, is about the experience, right? These folks aren’t expecting our calls. They are triple booked, they’re busy. They may be quarantined in a house with four or five kids at this point. Everybody’s working from home.

Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
We are, as we’ve seen. We’re all going through it.

Dionne Mischler: (20:12)
You know what I mean? So a lot of people are grateful and expect us as the salesperson that is calling for them to do the homework. So when we close something, when we close out the call, and we say, “You know what, Gabe, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.” We want to be empathetic. We want to acknowledge and we want to have courtesy. Right? “So thank you for taking the time. I know I caught you in the middle of a thousand things. Here’s what you can expect to happen next. You’re going to get an email from me with some additional information. You’re also going to get a calendar request for the time we’ve agreed to talk next and I’m going to connect with you on LinkedIn.

Gabe Larsen: (20:51)
Love it. Yeah.

Dionne Mischler: (20:54)
Then the followup is to do those things, right. And then definitely confirm the meeting and all that good stuff. Just again, operate in a mindset of common courtesy and what would you like to have happen.

Gabe Larsen: (21:09)
No, I think that’s powerful and I like kind of the simple, basic structure. Well, that’s a fun talk track. I appreciate your time today Dionne. We hit a couple of different things, but in summary, to summarize, you think about revenue center, cost center, how would you kind of leave the audiences with some of these ideas?

Dionne Mischler: (21:26)
Yeah, absolutely. So I would just say I would not use the word just, I would say absolutely get your people the training they need and want to make this turn. At the end of the day, I’ve taken a lot of our content from Inside Sales by Design and I put it up online on a teachable platform. And so the art of conversation is something we teach with our clients. It’s online for folks right now and just given the state of affairs right now, it’s free for everybody right now for the next 30 days. So the end of April. So if you’re looking for some help or a way to start this, I sent it to my clients. They’re doing watch parties at this point and going through their talk tracks right now. So which is great, right?

Gabe Larsen: (22:13)
You’ve got to take what you can right? There’s so many different things changing as the world continues to evolve. Well, really appreciate you taking the time. If someone wants to get in contact with you or learn a little bit more, it sounds like what we’ll potentially see if we can’t get a link maybe to the course, LinkedIn is best, email, any concepts on connections there.

Dionne Mischler: (22:31)
Yeah, absolutely. So definitely connect with me on LinkedIn and then all my contact info is in there as well. Or I think my cell phone number is in the summary.

Gabe Larsen: (22:40)
You’re one of those, you’re one of the cell phones in the summary. You’ve got to be bold if you’re doing that.

Dionne Mischler: (22:45)
Yeah. And I think there’s a link to my calendar in there too. So yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (22:49)
I appreciate it. That’ll be awesome. So we’ll make sure we get a couple of links in there for that. So Dionne, really appreciate you taking the time. A fun talk track for the audience hope you have a fantastic rest of your day.

Dionne : (22:59)
You too. Thank you Gabe.

Exit Voice: (23:04)
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Be NICE: How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias

Be NICE: How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Sergio Frias joins Gabe Larsen to discuss the Be NICE platform; a process that companies can use to improve their customer experience. Sergio is an engineer and has spent the last 20 years in the construction, tobacco, and aerospace industries. He worked at Supply Chain for a while, and that’s where his passion for CX started. The company was ranked #13 out of 13 on a customer support survey, and his boss gave him the challenge of rising to the top. By creating the Be NICE program, they became number one. After a brief amount of time away from the industry, he returned knowing that it was where he wanted to spend his time, and he continues to share his passion for the CX industry today. Listen to the full podcast episode below.

What is the NICE Program and What it Stands For

The NICE Program was created by Sergio Frias in order to help give companies the tools they need to have better customer service. It is also an acronym for Nurturing Insights about Customer’s Expectations. Sergio explains, “The whole idea behind that is that for you to deliver a customer enchantments, which is more than satisfaction, which is the wow factor, you have to deliver something that the customer is not expecting. And for you to be able to do that they’re not going to tell you what a wow moment is for them. You have to figure that out. So you have to have an insight.” Customers want to be blown away with quality service and that requires insight. The NICE program helps businesses find these insights and act on them.

The Eight Steps of NICE to Drive CX

To help give companies clear direction, the eight step process was outlined for improving CX. The first step is context, or getting the background information so companies know where they are at and where they want to go. Next is benchmarking. Benchmarking is comparing the customer service tactics of other companies. They do not have to be companies in the same industry, they just need to have good tactics to learn from. Third is the ever important customer journey map. The importance of going through the experience of the customer and mapping it out cannot be forgotten either. And fourth is a step called the “essence of NICE.” Sergio explains, “the idea is that you have to grow the performance from what you are delivering, actually delivering, to what you promised. And then you have to go beyond that because customers are not satisfied by getting what they paid for. … So we have to figure out ways to understand what are the processes that we have to change or make flexible enough so that we can go around them to deliver what the customers are expecting without bankrupting our company.”

The fifth step is about evaluating which processes of the organization or company need to change. It is about not being afraid to take a hard look at a company and figuring out what alterations need to be made and creating a plan to execute those. Step six is called knowledge sharing or making sure that the important information isn’t kept a secret. When knowledge is shared, change can happen. Step seven is making sure that the right employees are in the right places and that they are taken care of. Happy employees help have happy customers. The last step is all about service. To explain this, Sergio comments on the incorrect understanding some people have of what service is. He shares, “So if I serve you, it’s because you’re better than me, which I believe is exactly the opposite because the people who can actually serve the ones that are capable of sacrificing themselves to the benefits of others, those are very special people. … And then we have to make sure that the organization understands that so that the people that will be serving the customers, they will serve thinking that what they’re doing is not just another work like any other work.”

Expert Insights on Where to Start When Improving Customer Experience

To finish up his time with Gabe, Sergio shares some last insights about attitudes and practices companies should have when they start the NICE program. Companies need to have an open mind to new practices and know their brand inside and out. Also, knowing the impact a company has on those around them. Once organizations really know themselves, they will be ready to do the heavy lifting and start making the necessary changes. Another important point he makes is the following; “do not assume that you know what is best for your customers. You have to make sure that they tell you one way or another. You have to deliver something that is aligned with their expectations. What you think is great, really doesn’t matter. What matters for them is what is great for them. So you have to understand what is valued from your customer perspective.” Powerful and positive CX experiences lie ahead for the organizations that learn to apply these principles.

To learn more about the NICE program and Sergio Frias check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Be NICE | How to Drive the Customer Experience with Sergio Frias

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s episode, we’re excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about how to drive the customer experience using a really interesting framework that was brought to my attention not too long ago. And so we brought on Sergio Frias. He wears multiple hats, actually. He’s currently the President and CEO of the Federation of Canadian-Brazilian Business, as well as he’s also the chief customer experience officer at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Management of Ontario. So Sergio, thanks so much for joining and how are you?

Sergio Frias: (00:44)
I’m fine. Thank you very much for having me. It’s really a great opportunity to be here. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:50)
Well, I think you bring a lot of wealth of experience in this, obviously in the CX space and I think in the customer space in general. Before we jump into the topic, can you just do a double click real quick? Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?

Sergio Frias: (01:05)
Yeah. Well, I’m an engineer. I worked for construction industry, tobacco industry and aerospace industry for the last 20 plus years. I’m in the aerospace industry. I worked on multiple fronts in Supply Chain in customer support operations, sales, contracts and most recently I decided to change paths in my career and become this CX guide that I am today.

Gabe Larsen: (01:37)
Well, let’s let’s then go further into that. I mean, what was the, what was the thing that made you flip? How’d you become a CX expert?

Sergio Frias: (01:44)
That’s a great question. Actually, for many years, since I joined the aerospace industry, I was being exposed to customer experience all the time. So I had a lot of functions that were to support customers one way or another. So when I was in Supply Chain, I was asked to be the supplier, the purchasing guy for spare parts to provide to customers. Nobody wanted to do that job, but I was asked to do it, I said, “you know what? Nobody wants it, it may be a good opportunity.” I went there, but I was always trying to go back to my usual life. Then at some point the President of the Services Business Units in the company I was working for, he came to me and said, “you know what? I have a problem. We are number 13 out of 13 companies in a survey about good quality service in terms of customer support. We need to be number one. And for that, we need to deliver great customer experience.” And he said, “if you want, the job is yours, you’re going to be the owner of this business. So you buy, you sell, you do everything, all the logistics, distribution, everything.” That was a great opportunity for my career. I was not really thinking about CX, but the more I got into that I realized that I knew how to do it because of the many years working with customers and always being concerned about how to get the customers what they needed. I realized that was an amazing thing, especially when you could deliver and the customers were happy and they — you could see the results right in front of your eyes. And it was a great opportunity because the size of the problem was so big that I had to create something. And I created the NICE Program, which was very successful. Unfortunately, two years down the road, the business unit that I was working for was terminated. And I had to break my organization into three to have a piece of each, each one of these pieces within the other business units in the company. Then I moved to be a sales guy, selling business aircraft. Then I moved to be a sales guy for commercial aircraft, then services to airlines, but I was never the same. After that, my heart was with CX and I was always thinking of ways to get the experience of the customer, either on the sales process or the contracting process or in the delivery process or the aftermarket process, always trying to make it better. And then that’s when I realized that, look, I’m getting old, my friend, if I want to jump on this dream, it has to be now. And that’s what I did. A few months ago I left the aerospace industry. I became an independent guy, and I was invited by the CMO, the Chartered Institute of Marketing Management of Ontario to do exactly what I always wanted; to write my book about the NICE Program and to share the knowledge that I accumulated over many, many years working with customer experience. And I’m still excited about that.

Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
I love it. I love it. I think we share some of that. I also did a lot of selling in my background, but did taste the flavors of CX. And once you go CX, it’s hard to go back. I can relate to that. So, well, let’s dive into this NICE program a little bit. I mean, it sounds — I think the thing that’s always great to come across is when there is a little more structure to delivering customer service, sometimes it gets soft. I’ve talked about that on this podcast before. It’s just feeling. The more you can get strategies and process and structure, I think it all helps us deliver a better customer experience. So start with the why, what is the why of this program?

Sergio Frias: (05:16)
Yeah, if you remember, I just mentioned my boss, he wanted to be number one. And the only way to do that was by delivering great customer experience. So that was the why. The problem is that’s not enough. You have to go lower into how you’re going to actually deliver that. So we came to the how and how we would do that. So we basically had to transform operations, centric organization, or focused organizations into customer centric organizations. That was the only way because the whole organization was focused on running the processes regardless of what the end result was. And we had to convert that. So by basically training people and getting them to be nice on the phone, that was not enough. We had to change the entire organization because otherwise the people with all the good intentions, they would never be able to deliver a great customer experience if the systems behind them, the processes and the tools and everything, they’re not all aligned with the same purpose. So the thought management has to be aligned the processes, the tools, everything has to be aligned. And that brought us to the what, so what we would do. So we basically had to develop the people and we had to upgrade the tools, we had to review the processes and we had to change the culture. So this is what the program is all about, right? So it’s a people and organizational development program, which purpose is to deliver those four things that will actually make the — or materialize the transformation that will end up delivering great customer experience, which let me tell you, at the end of the story already, we became the number one, right? So from number 13, out of 13, we became number one from 13. So that, that’s what it is.

Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
Wow. Do you — I love the alignment when — because you’re right. Sometimes we focus too much on the people side or the process side or the technology side, and you really want to get those threaded together. So they’re all working together. I like that you’ve brought them all kind of in one underlying framework. I’ve got to ask, what does NICE stand for? I mean, is that an acronym? You’ve got to be nice to people as part of this program now.

Sergio Frias: (07:35)
Yeah. Well you do have to be nice to people because that’s the key, right? NICE is actually an acronym. It comes from Nurturing Insights about Customer’s Expectations. The whole idea behind that is that for you to deliver a customer enchantments, which is more than satisfaction, which is the wow factor, you have to deliver something that the customer is not expecting. And for you to be able to do that they’re not going to tell you what a wow moment is for them. You have to figure that out. So you have to have an insight. And for that it’s not magic, right? It’s not fairy dust and suddenly you know everything. It’s a process. You have to build that. And you have to build that through all the interfaces you have with your customer. And in terms of all the customer experiences that they have, that they experienced with your business, starting from the very beginning with what your brand promises, what your marketing says, what your sales process is, how the contracting works, how the delivery works and the aftermarket, and always remember; that if you have customer services, basically because the customer experience failed somewhere before that, right? So the idea is to understand all that, those aspects and how your brand, your company is exposed to the customer, providing experiences, even if you’re not seeing that. And that’s — when you truly understand that, then it’s much easier to be able to take action, prioritize things, and deliver the great experience through all those channels.

Gabe Larsen: (09:12)
I love that. I love that. I think that’s a fun acronym. That’s good to know what that is and again, I liked that you’ve brought them all kind of under one umbrella. Let’s get into some of the components that you find really important as part of this NICE program. How do you break it out? Is it one, phase one, phase two, three pillars, five? How do you think about the NICE overall framework or strategy?

Sergio Frias: (09:38)
Yeah, we basically — it’s a program with eight modules. Yeah. And it’s on purpose because we want to make sure that people understand each one of the phases and each one of the things that have to be done to deliver that great customer experience. The first one is what we call the context. So, for you to be able to go from one point to another, you need to know where you are and where you want to be, where you have to be. And that’s when, when you’re trying to deliver a great customer experience, you need to understand how good is your experience today and how good it has to be based on the strategy of your business. So this is the context. You have to understand exactly what is going to be the trip from where you want to go to where you have to go.

Sergio Frias: (10:22)
Right? The second part is the benchmarking. The second module is the benchmarking. Why? Because there’s a lot of companies out there that are currently, that are delivering an experience as we speak and our customers, they are being exposed to that. So we need to understand who are those companies that are defining our customer’s expectations so that we can have a chance to figure out how to deliver to that expectation. Right? So the benchmarking is a module where we try to understand who are those companies, those companies may or may not be from our industry. Right? So when I was doing this in the aerospace industry, uh, one of the main companies we were looking into was a retailer. The other one was, I guess I can mention the name, it’s McDonald’s right? So McDonald’s, don’t sell spare parts for airplanes, right? I don’t remember to have seen a Mack landing gear, but the fact is those guys, they know very well how to standardize processes and part of our business needed that. So we use them as a reference, as a benchmark, the same with the retailer, they were really good at customer experience. So we did that. And then once we mapped and figured out which companies we could invite to join us in this journey to deliver a great customer experience, we developed a partnership with them and we brought them in to help us to grow, to help us to deliver. Right? The next one is the CX mapping or the customer experience mapping because —

Gabe Larsen: (11:52)
We’ve got context, benchmarking and mapping. Right. Did I get those and [inaudible]?

Sergio Frias: (11:56)
Yes. Perfect.

Gabe Larsen: (11:58)
Alright keep going.

Sergio Frias: (11:58)
Yeah, and the mapping, as I mentioned before, the experience doesn’t start when you actually have a customer on the phone complaining because the product they bought is not working. It starts way before. It starts when, for example, if I say the word Porsche, it defines an expectation already. It has to be something fast, something with great performance and sexy, right? Your brand is already telling a story and your customers are already expecting something out of that brand. And then there’s all the marketing that you do around this name, around this brand. And then you create more expectations and then you start to sell and then you’ll deliver. And then there’s after markets, all the supports after sales, and even the disposition sometimes like you buy a car and when the car is, you can sell it to anybody, you can get rid of it. This is a bad experience. And companies typically don’t see that. So the purpose of this module, you have to map all the expectations that are being created by your organization, your brand, your process, whatever, that you have to figure out a way to deliver to that. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (13:05)
Yeah.

Sergio Frias: (13:06)
And then we have the next module, which we call the essence of NICE. The essence of nice is the following. We, typically the companies that need to do something, it’s because they are delivering a performance that is less than what they sold to their customers. And then the idea is that you have to grow the performance from what you are delivering, actually delivering, to what you promised. And then you have to go beyond that because customers are not satisfied by getting what they paid for. Remember, every time we buy something, we always choose the cheapest one expecting that it will perform like the top of line of that product, right? So customers only are satisfied when they get what they expect. So we have to figure out ways to understand what are the processes that we have to change or make flexible enough so that we can go around them to deliver what the customers are expecting without bankrupting our company. We have to preserve the financial results, but we can do things that are simple, that can deliver satisfaction without breaking the company. And that’s what this is all about. But there’s another level of performance that is the dream of the customer, because some customers — you’re so far from the dream that they’ll not even tell you what the dream is because they don’t think it’s worth, right? So, well, “why would I do that? They’re not even performing the minimum necessary.”

Gabe Larsen: (14:25)
Right.

Sergio Frias: (14:25)
So the idea is to develop your people to a point that they can read in between the lines, they can understand or figure out what has not been verbalized by the customer. So they have to understand what the customers will see as a wow moment, or will see as the magic or see as something spectacular. And when you are able to figure that out and deliver that with those flexible systems, with those flexible processes in your company, you will be delivering great customer experience. So this is the essence of NICE. The next one is a triple away organization. Triple away organization is basically you have to evaluate your entire organization, figure out what are the things that you have to change? What are the processes you have to make flexible? What are the tools you have to improve and everything you have to do to be able to have the entire organization focused on that delivery. And then of course, execute, you know, have plans in place, make those changes and transform your organization.

Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Okay. So there’s a lot to this, but I think there’s a lot to customer experience. So we’ve got context. We’ve got benchmarking, knowing where you are, where you’re not, I love the mapping, knowing those moments of truth. This essence of nice was different, but I liked those different service levels you talked about. Okay. I think I got that triple organization was number five. What were the last ones? Give me the last three real quick.

Sergio Frias: (15:53)
Yeah. Knowledge sharing because it’s the next one because there’s a lot of knowledge inside of your organization. And you have to make sure that you use that knowledge before you start spending money to get training to 300, 5,000 people. The next one is the right people at the right place. You have mapped the profile of your people and understand what would make them happy. Because as Richard Branson says, “if you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers well.” So you’ve got to make sure that they are happy, because if they’re happy, they produce more, the productivity is higher, the quality is higher, the customers are happier and you make more money. So you’ve got to figure out a way to get them happy. And in this program, we help people to understand how to map those profiles and move people around the organization so that you put them at the right place.

Gabe Larsen: (16:45)
Got it, got it.

Sergio Frias: (16:46)
And the last one is the true meaning of service. This is very important because, particularly in countries like Brazil, where I come from, we come from — we were the last country to abolish slavery. So the whole culture of the country makes people feel like service is something, menial something, subaltern something’s slavish, right? So if I serve you, it’s because you’re better than me, which I believe is exactly the opposite because the people who can actually serve the ones that are capable of sacrificing themselves to the benefits of others, those are very special people. Look at the people that go to the military and go fight a war overseas. Those guys are serving their country. Nelson Mandela, he was serving a cause. A father, a mother that decides to give up the career to stay home and take care of the family they’re serving their families. So those are very special people who —

Gabe Larsen: (17:44)
[inaudible] — cause sometimes.

Sergio Frias: (17:46)
And then we have to make sure that the organization understands that so that the people that will be serving the customers, they will serve thinking that what they’re doing is not just another work like any other work. It’s something really special. And once people realize that they have self fulfillment when they do it, when they succeed and the customers are very happy. And of course the company makes a lot of money. So it’s good for everybody. So that is a very important part of the process.

Gabe Larsen: (18:14)
Oh, I love it. Well, that is a very comprehensive — and I know there’s, as we were talking pre show Sergio, I think you could go on this for hours, but each of those modules, I assume you can go layers deep. But I like that it’s holistic. I liked that it brings people process technology, kind of brings all of those together. As you think about a framework like this and knowing you’ve been a customer experience leader, and you’ve talked to some of those, what would be your kind of tip or advice for people who are trying to start this journey tackling all eight might be difficult [inaudible].

Sergio Frias: (18:50)
Well, first thing is for them not to limit their understanding of customer experience as that moment of truth, the moment you are in front of the customer. You have to look at the overall thing. You have to understand the impact of your brand, of your services, of your products. You have to look at the overall thing, not just one piece. The second would be, you have to change not only the people, but you have to change the organization. If you change either one or the other, I can guarantee you that you’re going to waste time and money. It’s not going to work. You have to change both. The other one would be to not underestimate the power of your organization, the power of the knowledge you have in your organization and the power to make, to promote change. You have to choose the right people to have around you so that the change can actually happen. The next one was do not assume that you know what is best for your customers. You have to make sure that they tell you one way or another. You have to deliver something that is aligned with their expectations. What you think is great, really doesn’t matter. What matters for them is what is great for them. So you have to understand what is valued from your customer perspective. And what I would suggest particularly now is that you understand that improving our processes or trying to find more efficiencies or optimize the way you do things. These days, when people have a lot of capacity, idle, it’s not the best thing to recover from COVID pandemic crisis. Customer experience is probably the best way because that’s when you’re going to bring your customers together, you’re going to be closer to them and you’re going to incentivize the demand to come back. So if I would bet at this point in something to recover, I would bet on customer experience because this is what is going to make the biggest difference over the last few years, I would say.

Gabe Larsen: (20:52)
I love it.

Sergio Frias: (20:52)
That’s what I would say. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
I mean, times are still challenging for many of us and I think customer service can be that difference, needs to be that difference and I think you outlined a good way for everybody to think through that. So Sergio, really appreciate you jumping on today. If someone wanted to learn a little bit more about you or get in touch with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Sergio Frias: (21:11)
Well, you can find me via my email address is sergio.friasrb@gmail.com. Or you can find me on LinkedIn, my profile, just look for Sergio Frias. It’s me and you can reach me there and we can connect and I can try to help. It will be definitely a pleasure.

Gabe Larsen : (21:33)
Appreciate it. Well, definitely a lot of information gathered today. Hopefully helpful for the audience. Sergio, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sergio Frias: (21:43)
Thank you very much. For you too and thank you for the opportunity. Bye bye.

Exit Voice: (21:53)
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How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards

How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined with a long time friend, Steve Richards, to discuss Customer quality and assurance and how to best train customer service reps. Steve is the co-founder of ExecVision and he has founded other sales performance improvement companies. Throughout his career, he’s been committed to helping companies continually improve by understanding the data and the customer experience. Listen to the full podcast below for his valuable insights on how companies can transform their agents into a revenue center.

Data is Not The Issue

To start the conversation, Steve makes it very clear that companies don’t need more data to enhance customer service. Most companies do an exceptional job of collecting the necessary data that they need to start the improvement process. It is in analyzing and applying the data where companies typically miss the mark. Steve notes that just measuring to measure and having data is not going to help improve the situation. He states, “In the organizations…who do a much better job, they kind of close what we call insights-to-performance gap. So what they’re doing is they take all the data and then they use that data and they actually take action based on it to change something.” If companies gathered the data with an understanding of how to use it, they will be able to make a continuous improvement around the actual engagement, the interaction that’s happening with the customer.

Make Sure Your Agents Have the Resources to Improve

When it comes to QA, or quality assurance, a lot of analytical work is happening to ensure that the customer service experience is as good as it can be. QA tools record phone calls, conduct surveys and collect a lot of data about how to improve the experience. However, this information isn’t being translated to the very people it concerns, the agents themselves. Steve mentions, “People value more what they conclude for themselves than what they’re told. So if you actually want to get someone … to change their behavior — if we can get them to … listen to one or two of their own calls per week, they’re going to hear things, they’re going to change things.” Let customer service agents and reps have access to the QA data, such as their recorded phone calls, and they will start noticing ways they can improve.

The Steps to an Effective Customer Service Call

On several occasions, customer service reps will be asked to follow a script when answering calls. This can often leave the customer unhappy or unsatisfied with the service. However, there are still resources that the rep needs to use to solve problems. To make sure that the reps get the required information and that the customer feels good about the service they’re getting, Steve suggests viewing phone calls as a jazz musical composition. “It’s not a script, but we also don’t let them wing it. So we’re going to give them … the notes you have to hit in the piece, and then everything else you do around it, bring your personality.”

With that in mind, Steve also shares the important notes that must be hit to make the call effective. The first important notes are the beginning and the ending of the call. Making sure that the rep opens with a kind, confident, and consistent greeting and ends the call with a definitive action plan and customer appreciation. Secondly, practice active listening. Steve states, “The empathy, the active listening, and not doing it in such a way where you’re essentially caving. It’s like you have a backbone. You’re looking at the eye of the person, not physically, but you get the idea. As a peer and you’re paraphrasing what they said, making sure you understand, clarifying what they said…” The last important note to hit for an effective customer service call is simply not putting the customer on hold for too long. Timeliness is one of the best things to train your reps on and it will make a big difference.

To learn more about QA and customer service rep training, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Listen to “How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance | Steve Richards w/ExecVision” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Coach Your Customer Service Reps to Drive Actual Performance with Steve Richards

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright welcome everybody. We’re going to dive in today. We’re going to be talking about customer experience, something a little different, a different aspect, really how to escape the insights-to-performance gap, all based on the customer experience customer service world. To do that we brought in co-founder of ExecVision Steve Richards. Steve, thanks for joining man and how are you?

Steve Richards: (00:32)
I’m doing great Gabe thanks for having me here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah, it’s funny, Steve and I go way back. It’s been years, man. It’s probably been almost a decade, hasn’t it?

Steve Richards: (00:40)
I’m used to the salespeople and its kind of a little bit of a different world here going into call centers with CX. So, yeah, we’re having fun together.

Gabe Larsen: (00:49)
Yeah. But definitely knows his stuff when it comes to coaching, training, and I think using audio to really help people do their job better. Tell us a little bit about yourself and ExecVision before we jump in.

Steve Richards: (01:04)
Yeah, sure. So, I’m a founder of various sales performance improvement companies over the years. Somebody that does outsourced appointment, setting a sales training business, but really what we were seeing that was missing and we were looking at why do some people have so much more success in actually creating revenue? I will tie that back to CX later on. And a big thing is they had a culture of continuous improvement around the actual engagement, the interaction that’s happening with the customer. Usually, it’s a voice conversation, but it certainly is also a text conversation, SMS, email, other communication channels, but they had this kind of feedback loop. Our great mentor, Ken Krogue used to call it the brief debrief. You know, they prepare in advance. They do their job throughout the day. Then they go and they debrief afterward and they have a continuous improvement or kaizen loop. So I’ve, I’ve been committing my life professionally to helping companies figure that out.

Gabe Larsen: (02:00)
I love it, man. That’s a great intro. I love the shout out to good ol’ Ken Krogue. I need to reach back out to him. You move away from somebody and then all of a sudden you don’t talk to them. He’s such a good person. Such —

Steve Richards: (02:14)
Amazing, amazing.

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
Well let’s start big picture. Customer experience, customer service, what’s broken? Paint me — I mean, you’re in this all the time. Where are you seeing some of the fractions, the areas that are not working?

Steve Richards: (02:29)
Yeah, so the thing is with customer experience, so many call centers and contact centers have done a lot — omni-channel communication, they’ve done a lot to be able to measure and understand more what’s going on within customer experience right now. So I think what happened previously is NPS and C-SAT, and everyone’s been doing first call resolution for average handle time, for average, forever, hold times, all those kinds of things. They’ve got that. So the data’s there. I don’t think there’s anybody out there, there are very few out there that can’t say, well, we have data on our customer experience. Would you agree with that?

Gabe Larsen: (03:07)
Yeah. I mean, it seems like the data — I mean, I don’t know if it’s the right type of data, but there is a lot of data out there, right? I mean —

Steve Richards: (03:16)
Well said. Certainly, there’s a lot of opportunities for making sure we’re looking at the right types of data. And really the point of view we’re coming at is you have got the data on one side, it’s almost like there’s a canyon or a chasm that happens here. So you’ve got the data. How do you actually get that data to translate into agent performance or rep performance? Everybody calls them something different, agents, reps, et cetera, [inaudible] specialists. But really, when you think about it, it’s collecting all the data. The whole point, why do you measure a sprinter? Why do you time a skier? Why do we do these things? And the answer is to improve performance, to get even better.

Gabe Larsen: (03:54)
But it is funny, right? I mean, oftentimes we will — I mean, I get caught into this. You start measuring to measure and you’re not actually looking at how it can potentially affect the ultimate performance. So yeah, that probably as a bigger problem than you think.

Steve Richards: (04:09)
That’s it. In the organizations we’re seeing who do a much better job, they kind of close what we call insights-to-performance gap. So what they’re doing is they take all the data and then they use that data and they actually take action based on it to change something. Certainly some things could be around the processes and the systems of engaging with customers, different communication channels. I’ve mentioned things like SMS before and things like that. And then also at the same time, it’s what are our agents and reps saying? Now, I think the thing that some people might be thinking is, well, QA. Well we’ve had QA forever, quality assurance. We’ve got folks that do call listening, they do some call scoring, they do auto failing of calls. The thing that I’ve learned, Gabe, and it’s been fascinating going from a predominantly inside sales lens and going into the call center where there is no QA and inside sales typically and there really is in a call center, is the people. The reps frequently view the QA folks, almost like the cops, like it’s the police because they’re — and their language, think about their language. They’re looking for infractions, they’re auto failing. The QA, in most cases, the QA people sit like over there in the corner. It’s almost like the wizard of Oz behind the curtain. And everybody else is out here and whenever the QA team distributes a report, usually it’s, it’s the bad dog report, you know, “bad dog, you peed on the sofa, go outside.” And in many cases, they actually get their comp taken from them. I’ve seen a lot of organizations where people will get docked if they have to have a sales KPI or a revenue-generating KPI or offer a product, they’ll lose the variable component of their comp because their call was not compliant. It wasn’t done in a compliant manner, according to their — whatever the compliance department requires. Do you see what I mean?

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
And that’s probably — I mean, when we were first dipping in inside sales back in 2000, we were playing a little bit of the call center space with the in contact, way back when, but that sounds like QA hasn’t changed much from when I was playing with it 20 years ago.

Steve Richards: (06:20)
And Gabe, to be fair, just to interrupt. They want to. I don’t think it’s a question of the QA people not having the best interest of the business or the agents or the customers or the customer experience. It’s just that QA is one of those processes that it makes me scratch my head. I get a kick out of it. You and I have seen this. The process was what evolved over time, based on the resources they had. And when a QA function really just has a big pile of call recordings or nothing else, or maybe they have some speech analytics and nothing else, they do what they can do. They do things like random sampling. They spend a lot of time listening to dead air or calls that really are not scorable or coachable anyway. And as a result of that, they had to create all these kinds of crazy Rube Goldberg machines around this to ultimately improve agent performance. But along the way, that vision was never really achieved. And instead, it turned into like the infractions department,

Gabe Larsen: (07:18)
But, I’ve got to give them credit because I don’t mean — Steve and I share such a history you guys, you’re going to have to be patient as we [inaudible] sometimes, but at least they’re doing it. I mean, you look at the sales space and that’s like, people are acting like listening to, doing QA or listening to calls that was something revolutionary and brand new. So kudos that they’ve at least been, I think, going down that path and trying to listen, because the idea of listening to that real-time game film, whatever space you’re in, service, success, sales, it’s important. I mean, I think we need to hear it so kudos that it is happening. So where do you then find as you think about that traditional QA, be a little more black and white, how is that starting to branch out then? Where are some of the areas that they’re starting to kind of say, “Hey, how do we make this a little better?” And what does that look like?

Steve Richards: (08:09)
They want, so QA wants to be more involved in the process of actually seeing the business metrics improve.

Gabe Larsen: (08:16)
Got it. Okay. Yeah.

Steve Richards: (08:18)
And that’s —

Gabe Larsen: (08:18)
The tie in we were talking about.

Steve Richards: (08:21)
There’s the tie in. So they’re aware of that. Most of the time they’re actually, they’re not usually measured on NPS or customer satisfaction or those other metrics we talked about before they’re aligned with customer experience. They’re usually measured basically on the number of calls we’re able to score. They’re hitting their SLA, their departmental SLA to the rest of the business. But most of them spiritual, in their hearts and in their minds, they want to be doing more. And I think the other thing that’s changed is if you go to the average call center and contact center, you sit with the average agent on the phone. And I don’t care if they’re taking inbound calls or making outbound calls. What you’re gonna find is the vast majority of them never have an opportunity to even hear one of their own calls or anybody else’s calls to try to sharpen the saw or improved performance and it turns into a little bit of a hamster wheel and a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what happens is their supervisor will get the recorded call with the report from QA and usually there’s some infractions and maybe some areas of opportunity. Now, if they’re kind of busy doing their thing trying to service the customer or provide support, and then maybe offer an upsell or offer an additional product, maybe try to stop a cancellation. They’re so busy doing that they never have an opportunity to actually absorb what that is. But even more importantly, I think Gabe, is that people value more what they conclude for themselves more than what they’re told. So if you actually want to get someone — a human being, if you want to get a person to change their behavior, if we can get them to, even if they listen to one or two of their own calls per week, they’re going to hear things, they’re going to change things. And certainly, a supervisor is much better suited to do that with them than if they just simply get a report of what happened.

Gabe Larsen: (10:01)
Yeah. So yeah. It has been a lot of people in the corner listening and throwing over a report that doesn’t feel — I’m not –you teach me how to fish, you give him a fish type of thing. If they can see it, taste it and touch it one, the reps will be more important.

Gabe Larsen: (10:16)
But two, we then start to tie that QA into something that might be a little more directly tied to ultimately the business outcomes that the people want. So how do you start to move down this path? How do you make that happen?

Steve Richards: (10:32)
Yeah. And I’ll give you a tie back to Kustomer to what you do. And obviously this is not about what our respective technologies do, but if you’re thinking about customer service re-imagined, and if you’re thinking about personalizing that experience and providing that real-time information to the folks that are doing the service support, selling, et cetera, then, really the last mile, if you think about it, with that in place, the last mile is, well, what are they actually saying? What are they doing? What does that communication sound like? Because there’s a lot of different research that shows that the most important part of the customer experience, the thing that’s the most memorable, the things that show up on the feedback surveys is when the customer interacts with one of your reps or agents. And it can have a tremendous impact on having a lifelong customer versus a churn customer or someone who tells your friends, because they’re such a net promoter, they’re telling everybody, you gotta sign up for X. And so what we find is that we have to start number one with defining, what does good look like? What are our, not scripts per se? I mean, there certainly are scripts. Really the way to think about it is more like jazz. When you hit the notes in the composition. I heard that one time Gabe, it stuck with me. I love that. I think it was a speaker at the Inside Sales Association who told me. It’s not a script, but we also don’t let them wing it. So we’re going to give them, really for this communication type, for this call type, these are the notes you have to hit in the piece, and then everything else you do around it, bring your personality. Bring your personality. That’s number one. Number two, you have to have a method or a system to understand, are they doing it? Are our agents doing these things according to hitting the notes. So if they’re hitting the notes and all the rest of their metrics are good, fine. If they’re not hitting the notes, then we know we have to go in and change that behavior. So we need to automatically surface these, if you will, coachable moments. And that’s an interesting thing because in the call center or contact center, the term “coachable moments,” I don’t think it’s as prevalent as sales. So I think that what you and I have experienced, I think that call centers are way ahead of us in terms of QA and quality. I think that sales, in general, has kind of been better about at least having a focus on the coaching of the person and the coaching of the communication.

Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
The time and the results yeah, probably. Yeah.

Steve Richards: (13:00)
And then you’ve got to see it through. You’ve got to track the performance improvement. So whatever it is they’re trying to change or improve, let’s see how that score for that item increases over time.

Gabe Larsen: (13:15)
Yeah.

Steve Richards: (13:16)
See what I mean? And that’s it. That’s the full circle. Ken Krogue, right? Brief, execution. It’s from the book Flawless Execution, the Navy fighter pilots where they brief before they go and do a mission, then they have the mission. And then later on they debrief and the way that they describe it in the book is that they all get into a debrief room and it doesn’t matter what your rank is, it doesn’t matter who you are. If you saw something that will improve the mission for the future, we’re going to talk about it. So they, I think they symbolically take the velcro rank off of their shoulders and they put it down on the desk from what I understand.

Gabe Larsen: (13:48)
Yeah. Yeah. I think you nailed it to the T. How — are there certain things you’ve found? I like the simplicity of it, right? I mean, it is. And the tie in. You look for the right behavior, you don’t necessarily have to script it, then you follow it through, make sure it’s moving the levers you ultimately want to move. Thinking about that jazz or the notes, are there certain things that you’ve found as you’ve studied conversations or worked with different customer service or experience organizations, contact center, whatever it may be, but what are some of those notes? Is it, is it the personalization that that really is an important behavior, or thing to do or say? Is it thanking them? Any tidbits or advice there? I’m just curious if you’ve found anything.

Steve Richards: (14:31)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. So I’m going to go with, probably I’m thinking a lot of people listening to this are going to be predominantly inbound calls from a customer type of setup. So let’s talk with them first. It’s always going to be the bookends of the call are going to be really important. So it’s going to be number one, how they open the call. Is there consistency, is there confidence? Are there clear expectations set for what’s going to happen? And then of course, how they end the call and how they end the call with a definitive plan of action for resolution. If there’s still an open issue, or if they end the call based on being appreciative, showing appreciation, like you said, thanking the customer, those types of things and or offering an additional thing or asking for an additional thing. And then in the middle there are some key notes that we hear people have to hit. One of the big ones, of course, is active listening. The empathy, the active listening and not doing it in such a way where you’re essentially caving. It’s like you have a backbone. You’re looking at the eye of the person, not physically, but you get the idea as a peer and you’re paraphrasing what they said, making sure you understand, clarifying what they said, saying, “okay, let me, let me go look into this.”

Steve Richards: (15:41)
Another big one we hear is don’t put the customer on hold for a long amount of time. That’s another thing that I think plays into customers’ hands, because the reality is a lot of these call centers and contact centers, especially serve and support. The answer is not necessarily readily available. We want to try to do first call resolution. We want to try to not escalate if we can. So if we can provide that rep or agent with what they need to be successful or resources they can turn to, they can have hold times be shorter and get to the resolution sooner. Or ultimately if they have to escalate, they can know that they have to escalate and how to escalate so they can get it done faster. And I think a big thing that we also see is, we’re starting to see more and more people asking for referrals or people asking if you’re for the advocacy of the customer along the way. And that’s the cherry on top. If you did all the other things well, you’ve earned the right to try to expand your business with that customer, maybe offer them an upsell, something they’re not thinking about or a higher level of service if it’s a subscription.

Gabe Larsen: (16:43)
Yeah. That is fascinating. One more quick question on that. I mean, do you see, it does seem like a lot of people are talking about, “Hey, let’s make this not a cost center, but a revenue center.” That’s a little bit of a buzzword. So it’s like, have you figured out, are you seeing people kind of talk through, “Hey, I’ve got a contact center, but I ultimately would prefer that this is not just a cost center that’s spending all the money, but we are trying to get more referrals, upsells, cross-sells.” How do you think about that?

Steve Richards: (17:11)
Yeah. Let me tell you, I’ll tell you a quick story from a very well known, but I will remain, leave them as an unnamed company that has, it’s a retail store and they sell beer and wine and my wife’s cousin previously worked at this company. And at the time they set up a contact center to basically be a service hub for anytime someone has a party and they go into the store and they place an order, like if years later, they want to make an adjustment or all these kinds of things. And I asked him, and we talked about his measurements and pretty much all his KPIs are all the things that we’re talking about with CX, with customer experience. Um, but then I said, “Well, what, what revenue KPIs do you have? Basically, Hey man, would it be helpful if I, cause I’m having a party, should I buy from you? Like, is that good for you?” And he said, “No.” I said, “Interesting,” I said, “cause I’m seeing a theme and a trend towards, –” and it’s kind of like Gabe what you and I saw with field sales versus inside sales, kind of like retail plus the call center where you’re also going to offer them something or you’re going to, or you’re going to try to avoid churn or something like that. So most of these places aren’t set up cause he said, “Well, we can do that, but we don’t have a KPI.” So I said, “Well, if that’s the case, you don’t have a KPI. You don’t have any kind of incentive structure for the rep. Do they do it for your agents? Do your agents do it?” And he goes “A little bit, but not really.” But you know, you and I both know if you give him a comp plan if you will, or some sort of incentive — I know it doesn’t work the same way, it’s not like a variable — but it’s like, if you give them a little spiff, a performance incentive for offering something, you’re gonna bring in more business and you’re going to do it, you’re going to have an additional channel and it’s going to be a little — and sometimes that additional business gets so big, then it displaces some of the other channels.

Gabe Larsen: (18:54)
Yeah. Fascinating. Yeah. That does — that trend. That’s a little more of a side note, but that’s interesting to hear. It does seem like a lot of people are starting to try to think how do I not just do this, but I can also do that while I’ve got them here on the phone, right? Well Steve, it’s fun to have you man. It’s always fun to catch up. We talked about a lot. If you had to kind of summarize, take away, where would you end with this? Advice for the audience.

Steve Richards: (19:16)
Data is fantastic. The reason we measure is to improve performance. If you really want to improve performance and what I mean by performance is all those metrics that you look at, NPS, CSAT, all that stuff. If you want to improve that stuff, you have to understand the customer experience. You have to see it through the voice, hear the voice of the customer yourself, secret shop yourself, and then ultimately improve what the agents do and how they communicate. Because agent communication is like the sharp end of the spear. That’s one lever that most people haven’t done as good a job at pulling as they need to. And in order to get the agents better and reps better, they really have to be involved in their own development.

Gabe Larsen: (19:53)
Love it. I love it. Alright man, well if someone wants to get ahold of you, or learn a little more about ExecVision, what’s the best way to do that?

Steve Richards: (20:00)
Connect with me on LinkedIn. That’s always good. And we’ve got a lot of really good content on the insights to performance gap and call center coaching and things like that on execvision.io.

Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
Okay, well, we’ll make sure we direct people that way. So, Steve, appreciate it. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Steve Richards: (20:15)
I’ll see you at the Rangers game at MSG all right.

Gabe Larsen: (20:18)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (20:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

How to Create a Rockstar Customer Experience with James Dodkins

How to Create a Rockstar Customer Experience with James Dodkins TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by James Dodkins to explore a new way of creating a powerful customer experience. With a unique background, James has made himself into a prominent figure in the customer service world. James started his career as a professional rockstar. At the end of his music career, he decided to go into insurance and explore more conventional jobs. Eventually, he found that he could combine principles from performance and showmanship to customer service. Motivated by the quote by Jerry Garcia, “Don’t be the best in the world at what you do, be the only person in the world that does what you do,” he has helped others create a rockstar customer experience. Incorporating music into his keynote speeches, he inspires people all over the world and shares some of his valuable insights with Gabe. Listen to the full podcast episode below.

4 Step Framework to Proactive Experience Recovery

Proactive experience recovery, or PXR, is the practice of fixing a problem during the crisis or before it happens. Noticing issues and making changes before a complaint comes in is essential because, as James shares, only 4% of dissatisfied customers will complain. When it comes to having a rockstar experience, waiting for a complaint isn’t good enough. To counteract this, James shares a four-step framework for having good PXR. He states, “So the four-step framework … is identify, monitor, communicate, compensate.” Identify the problem, monitor the problem during the experience, communicate to the customers that you know something is wrong even if they aren’t aware, and compensate for errors. James also states that most companies only do the first two steps. To have a significant edge when it comes to PXR, companies need to accomplish all 4 steps.

The Role of Compensation in PXR

The principle of compensation or the need to compensate for errors in business is something that isn’t always executed correctly. As mentioned above, a lot of unhappy customers don’t say anything to the company. Because of this, companies that compensate for errors before being asked have a significant edge upon competitors. James quotes, “And it doesn’t have to be a monetary compensation, but some sort of gesture goes a long way towards changing how a person feels about a particular situation, only when they don’t have to ask for it. It’s when it’s a voluntary gesture.” The only way that compensation becomes a proactive gesture is if businesses are on top of the data and experiences that their customers are having.

Old Philosophies and the Need to Evolve

The way that businesses are organized also poses a problem to rockstar customer experience. James quotes Adam Smith, an important historical philosopher, and his work, The Wealth of Nations, to illustrate how businesses are organized. Adam Smith brought about the division of labor and the idea of the assembly line. Businesses were organized according to skill instead of focusing on the overall outcome. James notes that companies today are still being influenced by ideas from 1776. He states, “People started doing that and in the manufacturing world, when they were making stuff, it worked really, really well. But of course, things have evolved. Things are different. We are now more of a service economy than a manufacturing economy. When you try and apply a manufacturing mindset to service experiences, it just doesn’t really work.”

There is a drastic need to change business organization ideology to more of a service experience mindset. James also suggests that in order to bring about this change, team structure needs to evolve to be more like a soccer team. The goal is to win the game, not highlight certain players. Instead of paying people based on high performance in a specific skill, businesses need to put the successful customer experience first. James states, “We need to understand who the customer is, what their successful outcome is, how are we going to measure the delivery of it, and then put teams together, different skills and different core competencies who are best suited to deliver that success. Don’t organize by skill set, organized by ability to deliver customer success.” If businesses start to evolve how their teams are organized, a rockstar experience and an edge on competitors will shortly follow.

To learn more about creating a rockstar customer experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Create a Rockstar Customer Experience with James Dodkins

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. Today, we’re going to be talking about rockstar customer experience. I think this will be an interesting one. To do that, we brought on James Dodkins. James has got an interesting background. Now, he actually was a legitimate, real life award winning rock star playing heavy metal, released albums, jumped on stages and he uses all of this unique experience to really energize and power drive that customer experience in this idea of customer experience rockstar for his clients. So, he currently runs his own show. It’s called Founder and Customer Experience Rockstar CX. So James, really appreciate you jumping on and how are you?

James Dodkins: (00:55)
I’m very good. Thank you. Thank you for having me.Thank you for inviting me on.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Yeah. As we were talking pre-show, customer experience sometimes can have, I don’t want to say it’s fluffy, but it can be a little boring at times. Certainly, I think you bring a slightly different perspective to it. And so I’m excited to get into that today. Can you fill in any blanks? Tell us a little about yourself and kind of maybe your background from what I missed.

James Dodkins: (01:22)
Well, I mean, you kind of covered it all, but yes, I used to be an actual real life, legitimate award winning rockstar, but now I’m not. Now I just pretend to be a rockstar. So I released albums, toured the world, had videos on TV, was in magazines. And when that all came to an end, I did the next logical thing after being an international rock god and I joined an insurance company. And I never used to tell anybody that I had a music career because it came with baggage and I thought people would have preconceived notion. I mean, they would be probably correct preconceived notions, but I just didn’t want them to have it. So I wear my way through my corporate career, no one knowing that I used to be a rock god, but then I got really bored because I was having to pretend to be someone that I wasn’t, you know, suit and tie, briefcase, being really careful what I said, to who I said, and how I said it and how I behaved and how I presented myself. And essentially I’d created this corporate version of myself. It just wasn’t me. And it was making me miserable. Lots of things sort of converged and it hit me all at once. There was a quote from a guy called Jerry Garcia from Grateful Dead. You heard of it?

Gabe Larsen: (02:33)
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but I know the band. Absolutely.

James Dodkins: (02:39)
Well, nor am I. I think that music’s kind of crap but the quote is good and it’s one that’s changed my life and who knows, maybe it may change some of your listeners’ lives too. And the quote is “Don’t be the best in the world at what you do, be the only person in the world that does what you do.” And I was like, woah. I realized all of a sudden, I’ve got this really cool past that when people did find out about it, they were fascinated by it. They wanted to know more, they thought it was really cool. I’m trying to do this thing in the world where I’m trying to increase the knowledge of customer experience and the effectiveness of customer experience and trying to spread it around the world. Why not see if I can put these two things together to help amplify, for want of a better word, that message and spread it out there. And I’m quite embarrassed. I didn’t realize it earlier, but there are so many parallels between putting on a good show to your fans and delivering a good customer experience to your customers. And literally from that point forward, I haven’t looked back. And the nice thing is about it is I don’t have to pretend to be anybody other than who I am. I’m just me being my authentic self. The dumb thing is as well, I said to my wife, I’ve got this idea, I’m going to change the company. I’m going to take us into the 21st century, I’m going to revolutionize what we’re doing. She’s like, “Oh this is exciting, Tell me.” I was like, “I’m just going to be myself.” She was like, “Eh, I don’t really like you being yourself around the house. I don’t think people are going to give you money for that.” But she was wrong.

James Dodkins: (04:14)
And here we are today.

Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
No kidding. Big change.

James Dodkins: (04:19)
So, I hit the road. I wrote a musical keynote talk, which is called “Rules for Rockstars,” which works in any industry because any industry can improve by delivering rockstar customer experiences, I play guitar in the talk, there’s tour stories and musical examples, and people seem to like it. So I’m having a great time right now.

Gabe Larsen: (04:39)
I love it and I know there’s other content that you do out there, but the live rock star keynote sounds like that might be fun to check out. So, let’s get into this idea of rockstar customer experience. Maybe you can elaborate a little bit on some of the key principles that you’ve found to really drive that “rockstar experience” that you’re talking about. Maybe start at the top.

James Dodkins: (05:02)
Well, I mean, there is no top really because for every company and in every unique situation, there would be a first place to start. But there’s various concepts that people — we try and explain and try and get people to think about when it comes to delivering a rockstar customer experience. And one of them, which we were talking about beforehand, which is proactive experience recovery or PXR. And this is the idea and practice of not waiting for complaints. It’s the practice of fixing an experience in the experience. So if I — let me give you the old sort of — I don’t know if it’s an analogy or a simile or it’s essentially a story that will put this into perspective. Let’s say that you’re in a bar, you’re walking through the bar and you walk past the person and they’re carrying four bottles of beer and you bump into them and they spill the beers. Okay. That’s the scenario. There are four ways in which you can go about dealing with that situation. And number one, which is what most companies would do in this situation is they would run away to the other side of the bar and hope that the person never comes after them.

Gabe Larsen: (06:15)
Yeah. Yeah.

James Dodkins: (06:15)
So they’d run off and hope they never have to deal with that conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (06:19)
True, true.

James Dodkins: (06:19)
The problem is the majority of the time, the person won’t come after them. And then the person’s in the corner of the bar going “I got away with it.” The problem is that person’s now telling everyone else in the bar what jerk you are. So that really does start to affect first impressions. And remember that one customer’s bad experience can quickly become thousands of potential customers, bad first impression. And number two, you run away. But that person does come after you and that person taps you on the shoulder, but then you turn around and go; “Actually, when you entered the bar, you agreed to a set of terms and conditions whereby if the bar was over an 80% occupancy rate, bear spillage was a possibility. And either way, you were carrying over the recommended load limit of beers, therefore any drink replacement liability falls on your shoulders. Thank you, bye.”

Gabe Larsen: (07:05)
That’s totally true.

James Dodkins: (07:09)
So you basically read them the terms and conditions.

Gabe Larsen: (07:10)
Yeah aw man. I’ve heard those terms and conditions before. Screw you, right?

James Dodkins: (07:16)
Well, now the guy really thinks you’re a jerk and might threaten to punch you in the face. Number three, after the guy has threatened to punch you in the face, you turn around and go, “Yeah, sorry. I was only — Yeah, of course. Of course. I’ll replace the beers. Of course I’ll replace the beers.” And he still thinks you’re a jerk because you didn’t offer to do it in the first place and he had to threaten to punch you in the face to do it. Now, that is what most companies get to when the customer kicks up enough of a fuss that you think are the business equivalent of being punched in the face. You go, “Oh, okay. Right. We’ll put it right. We’ll give you a gift basket or a voucher or something just please go away and stop talking to us.”

James Dodkins: (07:53)
Or, number four, the way we would all most likely act in real life but least slightly acting in the business world is we would immediately turn around, we would immediately apologize and we would immediately offer to replace the beers without the person having to ask. I think we need to take that mindset in business a lot more. We need to be understanding the things that cause dissatisfaction in our experiences. We need to be monitoring the experiences to notice when these things happen. We need to be communicating to the customers when these things happen that we know something has gone wrong and then we need to be putting it right. So there’s a little framework for that. Do you want to hear the little framework?

Gabe Larsen: (08:27)
Please, please, because I think this setup is awesome. Right? It kind of — that’s something, you’re right, we can all relate to. Right? We spill a drink, we’re in a bar. It’s funny, sometimes those things make so much more sense, but when we put it in business, it’s like, we just can’t replicate it. So yeah. Give us the framework of how you can think through that.

James Dodkins: (08:44)
Yeah. Well, I mean, that’s a bit of a side. That is the large majority of the work I do is coming up with stupid stories that highlight business things that make you go, “Ah!” Because in the scientific world, I’m what’s known as an idiot. So in order to understand quite complex concepts, you sometimes need to distill them down into like the simplest method of understanding possible and use stories. So, in my quest for trying to, in a vain attempt to understand these complex business issues, I’ve managed to come up with some cool little stories that help other people understand it too. But anyway, so the four step framework for only four steps, only four, is identify, monitor, communicate, compensate. You want to spend some time to identify the things in your experiences that cause dissatisfaction. You probably already got the data for this. You probably don’t really need to do very much legwork with that. So identify the things that essentially piss your customers off. Then monitor the experience in the experience, while it’s happening, during the experience. Not afterwards, but during the experience to notice when these things happen.

Gabe Larsen: (10:01)
Okay. Okay.

James Dodkins: (10:02)
When you’ve noticed something has happened, it’s not good enough just to go, ” Oh, we’ve noticed something has happened.” You need to actually act on it. You need to proactively communicate to the customer to let them know that you know something has gone wrong. And many times this will be before the customer even knows something has gone wrong.

Gabe Larsen: (10:18)
Yeah. Yeah.

James Dodkins: (10:20)
Sometimes you’re letting them know something has gone wrong that maybe they wouldn’t have even noticed who knows, but you’re doing the right thing. So you are proactively communicating to them, saying, “look, this thing has gone wrong. We know it has gone wrong and we’re running and we’re fixing.” And then, compensate. So put it right. And it doesn’t have to be a monetary compensation, but some sort of gesture goes a long way towards changing how a person feels about a particular situation, only when they don’t have to ask for it. It’s when it’s a voluntary gesture. When you’re saying, “Hey, look, I know this thing has happened. We’ve noticed this thing has happened. Don’t worry about it. We’re on it and as an apology, we’ve credited your account with X.” The deal with this is, joking aside, only 4% of dissatisfied customers will complain. And the larger majority of the rest will vote with their feet. They’ll just leave and go somewhere else. If you are only fixing problems for the 4% of people that complain you are missing a massive opportunity. So that is the essential concept of PXR, proactive experience.

Gabe Larsen: (11:23)
I like the four steps. Where do you feel like people go — I mean, you’ve talked to people a lot. Is it the identify? Is it the compensate? Where do they typically go awry on this? Is there certain places or is it just all the steps are a little difficult for companies to kind of jump onto?

James Dodkins: (11:40)
So the first two, a lot of companies already do. Okay. But it’s for the wrong reason. And they don’t take that next step. A Telco company will see that they’re not getting any coverage in a certain place, or a train company will know that their trains are going to be late or an airline will know they’re going to land late. So they monitor it and they know it’s happened. Some will communicate, but some will just sit on it. They’ll just kind of wait for the complaint. They’re like, “Well, look, if people don’t complain, then we’ll have no problem.” And that’s shortsighted at the end of the day, because like understanding that 96% of people that are dissatisfied, won’t actually complain; only taking the 4% that do complain as everyone that’s dissatisfied because surely if they were dissatisfied, they would complain. That’s a stupid way to look at it. And so a lot of companies they’ll know something has gone wrong, but they don’t want to reach out whether it’s, they’re scared of the backlash, whether they don’t want to spend the money, whether — there’s various reasons. The first two, a lot of companies already do. It’s the last two where people stumble.

Gabe Larsen: (12:56)
Yeah. Fascinating. It’s probably right. Right? I mean, a lot of people that can fix the — they can find the problem, but actually doing something about it gets a little more difficult. Okay. So I like this idea of proactive experience recovery. Got it. Four steps, PXR. Another thing you and I talked a little bit about was this idea of this team structure, like teams are not often aligned or able to — they’re not in a structure that actually enables them to be successful. Can you elaborate a little bit on that? What, what does that mean and how do you kind of go about that?

James Dodkins: (13:24)
Yeah I do. Well, I mean, this is quite a — we’re going to get deep now. So if you think of any organization in the 21st century and you think of that org chart or the fancy word OrganiGram. What shape is it?

Gabe Larsen: (13:41)
It’s always, well let’s see. It’s usually diagram. It’s higher — It’s, what is it? It’s top down.

James Dodkins: (13:47)
The CEO at the top.

Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
Top down, kind of scrolls down. What shape is that? Some sort of a top down diagram.

James Dodkins: (13:56)
It’s a triangle, essentially.

Gabe Larsen: (13:57)
That’s right. It’s a triangle. Yeah. Fair point. Yep. You got it.

James Dodkins: (14:00)
So you’ve got the CEO at the top all the way down to the lowly minions at the bottom.

Gabe Larsen: (14:05)
Yeah the losers at the bottom.

James Dodkins: (14:06)
The losers. We organize our businesses around that, that’s what we use. That’s our blueprint for how we run our business. Now, where that came from, that’s an interesting story. So there’s a guy called Adam Smith. He’s actually on the back of our British 20 pound notes. He went into a pin factory in Scotland. And when I say pin factory, that literally is what they made. They made pins for tailoring. And he was looking at what they would — he was, he was an economist. He was a social economist. And he was looking at how they did work. And he realized that their output was largely dependent on who was working on any given day and how skilled those particular individuals were. So one day you get loads of really good pin makers in. They made loads of pins. Other days you get some really crappy pin makers and you’d make hardly any pins. And he thought, wouldn’t it be a really cool idea rather than doing it this way, we actually split up the process of making the pin, train people very well to just do one part of that process and then they just get very good at doing that and see what that does. And that was the division of labor. And he wrote about it in a book called Wealth of Nations. So supposedly he increased output by 24000% by doing that. By getting a person to say, “look, your only job now is sharpening pins. Your only job now is packaging pins. Your only job now is a wire extruder”. I don’t really know all the steps of making the pins.

Gabe Larsen: (15:35)
You fooled me.

James Dodkins: (15:39)
Well, thank you. Trained everybody up just to do one specific part of the process really, really well. Don’t ask any questions about anything else you don’t need to know about anything else. All you need to do is do this one thing over and over and over again, really, really well. This was a massive departure away from traditional craftsmanship where let’s say, I don’t know, you’re making a chair that the woodsmen, the carpenter would find a tree, cut down the tree, take the tree back to the workshop, do all the things you need to do to a tree to turn it into a chair, sell the chair, service it. They would do everything. They would own the process and the experience from start to finish. And this was like the opposite of that. This was a case of the person that was sharpening the pin had no idea what else was going on because they didn’t need to. And then of course you had departments form around this. And then you had the CEO at the top. It was like the chief pin maker, the person who knew the most about making pins and they made all the really important decisions. And that essentially created the organigram, the business chart that we use today, that pyramid.

Gabe Larsen: (16:44)
Okay.

James Dodkins: (16:44)
But the thing is he wrote about it in Wealth of Nations. Do you know when that was published? It’s a long shot. You probably don’t.

Gabe Larsen: (16:51)
1620?

James Dodkins: (16:55)
1776.

Gabe Larsen: (16:55)
Was it?

James Dodkins: (16:57)
Yeah, so I’m not a mathematician, but that’s a long time ago. And we are still modeling our businesses today on a pin factory from Scotland back in the day. And supposedly, it was even mentioned in the declaration of independence as cited as their model for economic growth because he did pretty well. People started doing that and in the manufacturing world, when they were making stuff, it worked really, really well. But of course, things have evolved. Things are different. We are now more of a service economy than a manufacturing economy. When you try and apply a manufacturing mindset to service experiences, it just doesn’t really work. So the problem with this is it’s created an environment and a culture where the majority of people think that the customer is not their job because they look at this chart and they say, “Well, I’m nowhere near the customer.” I mean, the customer is not even on the chart, which is, that’s another conversation for another day. But they say, “Well, I’m nowhere near customer services or any customer facing things. The customer’s not my job.” We’ve created this. The thing is this chart doesn’t exist. It’s not real. It’s just a drawing on a piece of paper. It’s a collective hallucination. We’re all just agreeing it exists, but it doesn’t. If we start thinking about it, it wouldn’t exist. So every single piece of work you’ve ever done, every single software you’ve ever used, every single project you’ve ever run, every single solution you’ve ever implemented has been based on a blueprint that doesn’t exist. That’s not real. This is like the red pill moment in the matrix. I should have warned you, but it doesn’t exist. The only reason we think that way is because of the way we draw the charts. I think we need to draw the chart in a different way. I think we need to think more like a soccer team or if you want to use the correct word football. So I’m talking about, you know, the football you play with your feet.

Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
Right, right, right, right.

James Dodkins: (18:50)
So I think we need to think like a football team. And so there’s three basic questions you’ve got to ask when you start thinking like that. Who is the customer? So for a football team, soccer team, who is the customer?

Gabe Larsen: (19:03)
It’s probably the fans right? I mean, it’s the fans, isn’t it?

James Dodkins: (19:07)
Yeah the fans. So they come and watch the team play. So the experience of watching the team play, what is their successful outcome from that experience?

Gabe Larsen: (19:16)
Okay. Okay.

James Dodkins: (19:17)
See the team win.

Gabe Larsen: (19:18)
Yeah. Okay.

James Dodkins: (19:19)
So win the game. And then the next question is, well, what do we need to measure to know whether we’ve delivered that success or not? And it’s simple, the score. So you understand, okay, this is who my customer is, this is a successful outcome, and this is how we’re going to measure the delivery of that successful outcome. Now, as a bit of an aside, you can measure many things in a football game. You can measure how many passes, how many tackles, how many yards run, how many corners, how many throw ins, anything, all right. But no analysis of that data would ever tell you whether you’ve delivered that customer success or not. The only thing that would tell you whether you’ve delivered customer successes is in the analysis of the score. It’s like a lot less when it comes to metrics, but it’s a lot more meaningful. But anyway, so, okay, we understand this now. We understand this is what we need to achieve. It’s the manager’s job in a football team to put a team together with different skills and different core competencies; strikers, midfielders, defenders, who are best suited to deliver that success, who are best suited to win the game. We don’t do that in business. We don’t say who’s the customer, what’s the successful outcome. How are we going to measure it? Okay. Let’s put a team together with different skills and different core competencies who are best to deliver that successful outcome, who are best to deliver this experience. We put all of the defenders out. We put all of the goalkeepers out. We put all of the strikers out. If you were watching a soccer game and the manager put just 11 defenders on the field, you’d be like, “hang on a second. What? That doesn’t even make any sense.” But that’s what we do in business because we’re not focusing on the successful customer outcome. We’re focusing on charts. We’re focusing on what’s easiest for us to manage rather than what is most successful for the customer.

James Dodkins: (21:07)
And the thing is we will then target people for the success of their departments rather than for the success of the customer. So imagine, right, in a football team, their target is to win the game. Yes, they have lots of other things that they have to do, and they have different skills and different core competencies. But overall, they work together as a team to win the game. But imagine if I said, okay, defenders, you’re going to get paid based on how many tackles you make. Chances are what they would do is pass the ball to the opposition strikers, to give them the best chance of getting more tackles. Well, that’s not aligned towards delivery of success. If I said to the midfielders, you’re going to get paid for how many passes you make. They’d just stand in a circle and pass to each other.

James Dodkins: (21:47)
Well, that’s not aligned to the customer’s success. Strikers, if we said to the strikers, “Hey guys, you’re going to get paid on how many shots you take.” No matter where they were on the field, as soon as they got the ball, they’d take a shot. That’s not aligned towards that delivery of customer success. What we do is we get these people together and say “Yes, there are different things you have to do, but the ultimate goal is to win the game.” We need to do that in business. We need to understand who the customer is, what their successful outcome is, how are we going to measure the delivery of it, and then put teams together, different skills and different core competencies who are best suited to deliver that success. Don’t organize by skill set, organized by ability to deliver customer success. Sorry I ranted for a little there but [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (22:28)
No, you’re fine. I mean, I think that’s, I think you hit a couple of real powerful points, right? I mean, the Adam Smith thing is fascinating. But whatever it is, I mean, ultimately we’ve been focusing on stuff that is not customer driven. It’s skills driven or cost driven or structure driven. And then we question why that structure doesn’t deliver the outcomes we want. Well, we didn’t organize it that way. We didn’t define the outcomes and then build around that. And so, wow. That one may take, to really build and design a function around customer experience rather than traditional concepts of structure and org charts and things like that. I don’t think we’re ready for that, man. I mean, that would take some time. I mean, there’s some modern companies who have really, I think, built their whole company around the customer experience. There’s some older companies like Disney, it’s all about that journey. But, you’re right a lot of us are probably still operating in 1776. Interesting. Well, James, it sounds like there’s probably another thousand things we could talk about, but let’s wrap for the moment we might have to bring you back on. In summary as you think about “rockstar experience,” what would you leave for the group as people try to kind of up-level themselves and get a little bit more proud, a little better in what they do as far as delivering that type of quote unquote “rockstar experience?”

James Dodkins: (23:56)
Well, again, I’d just say step back from what you’re doing, try and understand who your customers are at a psychographic level not a demographic level. Care more about who someone is than what someone is, understand what their successful outcome is, understand how you’re going to measure the delivery of it, and then align everything you’re doing towards the delivery of these successful outcomes for your customers at a simple level. If you can start doing that, you’re going to be miles ahead of your competitors.

Gabe Larsen: (24:20)
Yeah. Yeah. Amen man. Amen. If someone wants to get a hold of you, learn a little bit more about rockstar customer experience, where do they go?

James Dodkins: (24:27)
Go to Jamesdodkins.com. J-A-M-E-S D-O-D-K-I-N-S.com. That’s weird, I never usually have to spell my first name. It’s usually, like when you’re on the phone, like signing up for something, you gotta spell your last name. I don’t usually have to spell my first —

Gabe Larsen: (24:45)
Yeah, James Dodkins.

James Dodkins: (24:46)
[inaudible] J A M E S D O D K I N S.com. Go there, you can find out some information about my musical keynote. If you’ve got an event coming up that you would like to be unforgettable, then hit me up.

Gabe Larsen: (24:58)
I love it and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So James, thanks again for joining. For the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.

James Dodkins: (25:06)
You too, my dude. Thank you for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
Yep.

Exit Voice: (25:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

The Power of Tiered Customer Service with Al Hopper

The Power of Tiered Customer Service with Al Hopper TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Al Hopper, the principle consultant at Nagurra Networks. Al has had a variety of work experience in his career. He started as a team builder and then acquired different positions while working at Citi for 12 years. After Citi, he started his own company focusing on social media customer service and he is now the only consultant for Nagurra Networks. Al has a particular expertise in helping businesses grow and he applies those kinds of principles into helping others understand tiered customer service. Al and Gabe discuss what tiered customer is, when it should be applied, and common application challenges. Listen to the full podcast below.

Defining Tiered Customer Service

Tiered customer service is the practice of having different customer experiences based on different groups of customers. This can be reflected in subscription memberships or areas where people pay more to get greater benefits. Al mentions that Amazon Prime is an example of tiered customer service that most people are familiar with. To help us better understand the definition of tiered customer service, he relates the following experience from his time at Citi:

“And even at the bank we had … we call the Citiblue Customers and Citigold Customers. The Citigold Customers just were larger depositors, larger spenders, and you’ve got to treat them a little differently. Their social aspect is a little different and so they require a different level of service. It doesn’t mean that your base service has to be wrong or has to be bad. It’s really just understanding that you’re going to take a little better care of the people spending a little bit more money.”

Which Types of Businesses Should Have Tiered Service Experiences

While tiered customer service works well for banks, Al states clearly that it is not always necessary. “You definitely don’t need to have it for everybody. When you think about going to a restaurant, do you pay more to sit somewhere special? Do you pay more to get the same food? Absolutely not.” All businesses are going to have elements of customer service to help maintain their customers, but not all businesses types require tiered customer service to do that. Software companies and e-commerce businesses such as Amazon and banks are great examples of companies that would benefit from tiered customer service.

Where Businesses Often Misstep and Other Challenges

One way that companies often misstep when creating tiered customer service is in the people that they hire. It is essential to hire and train employees to handle different levels of customer service without making the base level a sub-quality experience for the customer. Al states, “You might want to hire a higher educated or better spoken individual for your higher level customer support because you’re going to be talking to higher educated, higher levels of customer base.” That simple example will guarantee that not only the base level customers get quality agents and quality servants, but also the higher tiered customers are getting the level of service they are paying for.

A challenge for businesses with tiered experience is maintaining the understanding that even the base customer is a human being and that their experience is valued by the company. “Even the little guy pays the bills,” Al states. Too often businesses walk all over their base customers or brush their needs to the side just because they aren’t the highest paying customers. We need to remember that every customer matters to the company and they deserve quality service, regardless of how much they are paying and the product benefits they may be receiving.

To learn more about the evolution of the customer support experience and how that affects businesses, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Tiered Customer Service with Al Hopper

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody to the podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about tiered customer service, how it works, how you should think about it, why you should be thinking about it. And to do that we brought on Al Hopper. He’s, right now, principal consultant at Nagurra Networks. Al, thanks for joining man. I know you’re kind of in some, doing some moves and things like that, but appreciate you jumping on and how are you?

Al Hopper: (00:32)
Yeah, man, I’m doing great. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah. Yeah. I think this will be a fun talk track. So I introduced you just a little bit, but you got a fun background. Can you tell us about some of the things you’ve done in customer experience and a little more about yourself?

Al Hopper: (00:45)
Yeah sure. I’m a team builder by trade, spent 12 years in a variety of roles at Citi, left there to start a company that focused on social media customer service. Really fun opportunity there. Had to take some personal time off to work through some things with my kids. You know, family’s super important for me.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
Yeah I know all about that man. I’ve got a couple myself.

Al Hopper: (01:12)
Yeah. Yeah. So, from there, I just kind of moving in between things as I try to figure out my own personal brand with Nagurra Networks as a consulting agency of one. So kind of a solopreneur and building out teams, upscaled teams pretty well and pretty quick. Some of my other roles, we scaled a customer service campaign for a BPO from 30 people in January to 200 people in September.

Gabe Larsen: (01:46)
Wow. Wow.

Al Hopper: (01:47)
And that was with hiring obviously then also promoting from within trying to keep that balance of promoting successful agents to team leads, QA and even created a subject matter expert team is kind of that middle layer and career progression.

Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
Wow. Yeah, we might have to bring you back on to talk about scaling a team like that from zero to a thousand or whatever that number was.

Al Hopper: (02:11)
Yeah. It’s a fun challenge and you’ve got to have the right people, the right thought process in place, you know? And then, I did some time with Black Rifle Coffee, then I’m going to call them out by logo. They just, they’re a great brand. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for years. Another organization that is scaling wildly. So yeah, it’s been fun. I love building teams, building processes, and really focusing on that.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
That’s so exciting, man. Well, that’s a lot of experience. Again, I love the scale conversation. Maybe, we should’ve went down that path, but again, maybe we’ll do it at a different time. Wanted to talk a little about tiered customer service. I think this is an interesting one. Just big picture for people like myself or maybe a little more rookie-ish, define it. How do you think about tiered customer service? What is it?

Al Hopper: (03:03)
Yeah, so there’s a couple of different ways that I look at tiered customer service. I don’t always look at it as a bad thing. but sometimes you do have to pay more to get more. And when you’re talking, especially as a service software, as a service like Kustomer, you’ve got sometimes a freemium model or a real base model to get entry people in. Got a certain population that needs your product, but doesn’t need all the bells and whistles.

Gabe Larsen: (03:32)
Right.

Al Hopper: (03:32)
And then you’ve got other larger customers that want to spend more, to get more. And even at the bank we had that, we had what we call the Citiblue Customers and Citigold Customers. The Citi Gold Customers just were larger depositors, larger spenders, and you’ve got to treat them a little differently. Their social aspect is a little different and so they require a different level of service. It doesn’t mean that your base service has to be wrong or has to be bad. It’s really just understanding that you’re going to take a little better care of the people spending a little bit more money.

Gabe Larsen: (04:12)
Yeah. Does this mean that — sometimes I think people say that well, does that mean my basic customer service is bad, or — and now I’ve got this kind of expert experience or I’ve got this expert service. So maybe just one click down on this with a simple question, should everybody have tiered customer service?

Al Hopper: (04:38)
No, you definitely don’t need to have it for everybody. When you think about going to a restaurant, do you pay more to sit somewhere special? Do you pay more to get the same food? Absolutely not. Right now, as a repeat customer, you might tip a little bit better over time. The waitstaff are going to start fighting to have you in their section because they know that they’re going to take care of you. You’re going to take care of them. Right. But at its base level, you walk into Chili’s, you’re going to get regular seats, just like anybody else, regardless of who you are.

Gabe Larsen: (05:12)
What? Not me man. When I go into Chili’s I’m like a regular there.

Al Hopper: (05:16)
Well, you’re the reason I’m talking about —

Gabe Larsen: (05:22)
I do like Chili’s actually.

Al Hopper: (05:24)
Think about it that way, you go to the gas station, are you really getting any premium service just because you might be buying the premium gas? No, not really. You probably still have to pump it by yourself unless you live in New Jersey.

Gabe Larsen: (05:36)
Right. Which I do.

Al Hopper: (05:38)
I still can’t believe that they still have folks out pumping gas.

Gabe Larsen: (05:41)
Oh man. I totally forget. You know, it’s funny because I’ve spent some time in New York, maybe 15, 20 years ago. And I didn’t come out to New Jersey I don’t think very often. And I went to get gas and I was like, just like in the movies. I know this is like not having anything to do with what we’re talking about, but well, it does a little bit it’s customer service, but honestly this guy comes up to my truck, up to my car and I’m like, I’m new in the area. And I’m like, what’s this guy doing.

Gabe Larsen: (06:09)
And he’s like, Hi, can I help you? I’m like you can back away from the vehicle, sir.

Al Hopper: (06:16)
In your traditional New York accent.

Gabe Larsen: (06:21)
No, but it was — that’s funny you brought that up because that literally happened to me within the last 48 hours and I was a little taken back, so they do do it in case you’re wondering. Yeah, they definitely —

Al Hopper: (06:32)
One of the last vestiges of freemium service.

Gabe Larsen: (06:35)
Tying it back into the talk track. I didn’t, I wasn’t a repeat guy, so I didn’t get anything special, but they did pump my gas. So good for them.

Al Hopper: (06:44)
Yeah. And I mean, and that’s again, an example of “Is tier customer service for everybody?” Absolutely not. You think of a bookstore. You’re not going to get tiered customer service, except maybe when you check out if you’re a member of their club, because then you might get a discount on a book, but otherwise, you need to ask someone where in a bookstore it is, they’re going to help you regardless because they’re just trying to sell you product.

Gabe Larsen: (07:12)
So, then on the flip side, what, I mean, having done this multiple times and played around with this, is there certain aspects of a business that you would say, Gabe, if you’re a company like this or if you’re kind of doing this or, I would encourage you to think about a tiered even if you have — who is it right for then?

Al Hopper: (07:31)
So obviously anything as a service that does a tiered product rollout. It’s something that you have to kind of bake into the costs. If you’re — and I bought software a lot over the last couple of years as I’ve scaled different organizations and you want to try to get the best bang for your buck. And so you’re looking at, maybe I get like the mid level software package because that’s what I need, but I really need someone as a product specialist to come in and build out my instance for me. So do I upgrade with the platform to get that, or do I buy the middle part of the platform and go with one of their preferred partners to do it where I still end up spending about the same amount of money, but maybe the partnered service is a little bit better than the baked-in premium service. So that’s an opportunity for definitely tiered service coming into play. Subscription models, I think are a big win there too, right? Having worked with, again Black Rifle Coffee, amazing product, very tribal with their organization and their fan base.

Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
And they have a cult-like following, a culture.

Al Hopper: (08:49)
Exactly right.

Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
A positive. That’s meant to be positive.

Al Hopper: (08:52)
I think any company that can aspire to that. It’s huge.

Gabe Larsen: (08:57)
I love that. Somebody said it was, I think Russell Brunson, he’s an internet marketer, but he used the word cult-ure, cult-like following. So I think of that as a positive word, but yeah, you’re right these guys, they definitely got something going on.

Al Hopper: (09:11)
So, I mean, when you think about a subscription model for coffee, for Amazon Prime; that’s a subscription model and you get a little bit more for paying a little more. You pay a small nominal fee for the year. Right. And it gives you access to all these other things, free upgraded shipping, you get your free video. Those are things that are tiered customer service. You don’t get if you don’t subscribe.

Gabe Larsen: (09:39)
Yeah. That makes sense. That makes sense. How do you — I want to get into some of the, maybe some of the benefits of tiered in just a second and maybe some challenges. But, having done this before, what are some of the tactical things you’ve done or found that need to be done in order to have a successful tiered model? Anything come to mind on the structure of the process, the technology, the people, anything in those areas?

Al Hopper: (10:07)
Yeah. Well, you definitely have to have a software, a CRM platform in place that can identify [inaudible]. Whether it’s as simple as tagging a customer account, I’ve seen that happen, or providing a special toll free number that kind of routes to the head of the line. There’s a couple of different tactics in place. You have to — one is identify what it is you’re trying to provide at that extra level. What’s the extra benefit? Someone that’s a preferred customer should get preferential dial ins, go to the head of the line for service. Does that mean 24 hour support? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on what you’re doing. Most internet companies, I think most e-commerce companies need to be 24 hours at some point at some level because that’s why you’re on the internet, not surrounded by regular business hours.

Gabe Larsen: (11:16)
But I mean, that’s where we are, right? This is getting, it’s also a little bit of a rabbit hole, but yeah, it’s just customer expectations. I mean, that’s a little bit of a generic statement to say they’re changing, but yeah, everything — 24 hour, you need to be available when I’m available.

Al Hopper: (11:33)
And you set expectations, you have the autoresponders that say we’ll get back to you in regular business hours or between these hours or call back between these hours, whatever. That’s okay to start. But you really have to have a plan on how to, I think, get better. Now, if you are a grocery store that’s only open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM, you don’t need 24 hour service.

Gabe Larsen: (11:59)
Right.

Al Hopper: (11:59)
It doesn’t matter if someone’s milk expired before they got home at midnight. Right. So it really doesn’t matter. But if you are a software company that’s supporting other companies —

Gabe Larsen: (12:11)
Or international, yeah. You got to kind of find that balance. What do you do on the agent side? I love the process. You kind of tag it, maybe get a different phone number. Do you often find that you will give your best agents to kind of those gold, blue ribbon, 4 star–?

Al Hopper: (12:28)
It depends on what the business is. So, you can innately train and hire for that senior level support if you’ve got a basic business and I’m gonna go back to my time at the bank. Banking is banking, pluses and minuses, debits, credits, earned interest.

Gabe Larsen: (12:54)
I worked at a bank. I can vouch for that.

Al Hopper: (12:56)
It doesn’t matter if it’s a dollar or a hundred dollars other than scale. So you can hire, certainly, for a concierge person there because once that person has that basic understanding of the product, then you’re good to go. What the difference there might be is, you might be hiring for a different level of empathy or different level of communication skills. You might want to hire a higher educated or better spoken individual for your higher level customer support because you’re going to be talking to higher educated, higher levels of customer base. Now if you are a service organization offering a variety of different complex services, let’s say even like video surveillance, you’re going to be talking to different levels of companies that are spending different types of money with you. And so you’re going to probably, at that point, want to assemble your team of Avengers and bring in the best of the best. Similar to when I was building out and supporting the social media team for the bank, we brought in some of the best from other departments, from all the different departments within retail because social media is a level of tiered service, whether it’s innate or by design.

Al Hopper: (14:21)
So you want to have that group of masters that you don’t have to spend time and reach out to the deposit team or the money laundering team or the mortgage team. You want to have someone there that knows all these things that can respond immediately.

Gabe Larsen: (14:37)
Got it, got it.

Al Hopper: (14:39)
And so it really depends on what it is that you’re trying to get at. You can train, obviously your product knowledge is huge but, think about what it is that you’re doing like software as a service, right? As a platform, you’re building out, you’re giving your customers the tools basically. And a lot of times, you as a customer have to build your own tools. So here’s your toolbox. And then you figure out which apps you want to put on it, you figure out how you want to sign it, right? Now at a low level, here’s your toolbox go away, right? Just give me a little bit of money and have access to my toolbox. I mean, that’s business. That’s really what it is, right? You’re not paying me a lot. You’re just paying me for access. Now, you need some more support. You need someone to build your toolbox for you or put the right tools in there. You’re getting into pay a little bit more, a bigger toolbox, more seats. You’re going to need a little bit — more resources.

Gabe Larsen: (15:40)
Where do you find people go wrong in building a tiered structure? I mean, you give us some of the things you need to look — probably best practices. There are certain areas where like, Gabe, I’ve seen this five times, the place where people go wrong or the challenges people run into are here.

Al Hopper: (15:58)
Yeah. The biggest challenge is I think forgetting that you are a service organization to begin with and they start focusing on the tiered customer service, get away with everything. Just because I’m daddy Warbucks and I’ve got a million dollars in your bank, doesn’t mean I can just walk in there and start slapping people around. You can’t just start cussing out the little guy on the other end of the phone because you think you have a little bit of money. I think also, missing the point, you know, and I look at SaaS companies this way, right? You are providing the bones and you are providing the platform, but you aren’t providing that higher level of support that maybe someone needs and you just haven’t identified.

Gabe Larsen: (16:46)
That’s, it’s a fair point. Especially in SaaS, we run into that problem often. I think you’re better in the consumer brands. They’ve found a way to match the level, or tiered structure a lot better. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Maybe we’re just a little behind the game.

Al Hopper: (17:03)
Well I think it just goes back to what your base competency is. Your base competency is building an amazing platform. And it’s, you kind of show it off a little bit when you’re doing the sales, you kind of do webinars, you kind of do podcasts, but you’re not really spending the time to teach anybody anything. And I think that’s where the sticky services become part of that tiered service. If you, as a software, as a service company, SaaS, if you were to just slow down and go, “Okay, if I spend an extra $2,000 here on this customer that just signed an annual contract, to teach them how to do what they need to do,” then that’s a higher level of service than someone who just signed a month to month contract for $300 a month that may or may not be here six months from now.

Al Hopper: (18:03)
But at the same time, the opposite could be said, going back to your challenges. And this is where my customer service background starts clashing a little bit with the concept of tiered customer service. Even the little guy pays the bills.

Gabe Larsen: (18:15)
That’s right.

Al Hopper: (18:16)
And so, how much money are you spending, marketing, bringing on that customer that is going to be month to month, that is going to be buying that small package, and then supporting them by giving them access to email support, but not chat support. Or, maybe you get chat support but you don’t get account management.

Gabe Larsen: (18:35)
Yeah. You start to, It starts to get a little, a little dicey there. Interesting talk track Al. It sounds like you’ve been around the block a few times on this. Now I want to shift and go into a little bit of that scale again. We might have to bring you back some other time. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about your thoughts on tiered service models, what’s the best way to do that?

Al Hopper: (19:00)
Right now it’s probably on LinkedIn. So LinkedIn/in/thealhopper I think is what the premium link is. Twitter is good as well. I’m hitting one of those tiers of relevancy. Yes. And so that’d be @Alhopper_ just please make sure you keep the underscore. The guy that beat me to my name gets really angry when people tweet him instead of me.

Gabe Larsen: (19:35)
Hey man, it’s all about customer experience and you’re not delivering a very good customer experience Al.

Al Hopper: (19:40)
Well, you know, that’s what happens when you’re late to the show.

Gabe Larsen: (19:42)
That’s right. Well, no man, I appreciate you jumping on. It’s a fun talk track. I think it’s very important, very relative as we try to find different ways to differentiate our customer service, customer experience. This tiered model I think is probably more relevant for more companies than I think people think. Sometimes it’s like this isn’t for me, I think that was the point you’d probably want to double check that as it might actually be for you. So again, Al thanks so much for joining and for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.

Al Hopper: (20:10)
You got it my friend. Thanks. Have a great one yourself.

Exit Voice: (20:20)
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The 6 Steps of Customer Journey Mapping with Annette Franz

The 6 Steps of Customer Journey Mapping with Annette Franz TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Annette Franz, CEO of CX Journey Inc. joins Gabe Larsen to continue exploring customer journey mapping and how to do it effectively. With over 25 years of experience, Annette started her career at JD Power and Associates and then moved to found her company, CX Journey Inc, about 4 years ago. She has witnessed the evolution of customer experience and is very authoritative on the subject. Along with her business, she is Chairwoman of the CXPA Board of Directors and an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council. She also published a book in 2019 titled, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business). For valuable customer journey mapping secrets you don’t want to miss, listen to the full episode below.

Customer journey mapping is a way of capturing the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the customer. As an essential process in any business, Annette describes 6 key steps to creating journey maps. Prior to sharing these steps, Annette mentions an important creative principle. She states, “You’ve got to have the right people in the room and the right people are your customers. And the map has to be created from the customer’s perspective.” Having the right team of people in the room when going through the experience of the customer will be an essential element in creating a functional journey map.

The 6 “must-have” steps that Annette mentions are number one, planning personas, goals, outcomes, etc. Step two is doing the “actual mapping workshop.” Three, identifying — but in two different parts. First, the map has to be translated into a digital format and then “identify the moments of truth, those make or break moments. … Do some root cause analysis, really dig deep and dig into what is at the heart of the matter.” This can be done by assigning people, or owners, to different steps of the journey. Step four involves getting stakeholders and owners in the same room to start working together to fix the problems that they find. Step five is then finalizing the plan and finalizing the methods that will be used to fix the problems. The sixth step is implementation.

What Data to Use When Crafting a Customer Journey Map

Since the journey mapping process can get complicated, Annette discusses the data that companies should use to help simplify and focus their efforts. Traditional “voice of the customer” feedback is the top data to pay attention to, but Annette mentions other data that will make a big difference as well. She states:

You can bring in things like call volume and whole time and time to resolve and the number of transfers and the channels used and those kinds of things to really make the analysis much more robust. … I like to bring in costs to fix, time to fix, effort to fix, impact on the customer, impact on the business, those kinds of things that we can use later on as we’re trying to prioritize what we’re going to do first.

Diversifying the type of data used in the analysis will help ensure a quality customer journey map.

When to Reevaluate the Journey

Because people are subject to change and journey mapping revolves wholly around a person’s experience, it is a very fluid process. So, creating these maps and using them effectively in a business is a continual process with a constant need for evaluation. At the end of her discussion with Gabe, Annette answers the important question of when a customer journey map needs to be updated. She recalls:

Anytime that you’ve got product changes, anytime you’re making an acquisition and you’ve got new customer types coming on board … or there’s something that changes the way we do business and changes the way that our customers will ultimately interact with us. … But the first thing that’s going to tell you that you really need to revisit that map is your customers are going to tell you.

Customers will be the first people to raise a red flag and let you know that the journey map needs to be updated. Listening to their voice, above all, is the ultimate “must-have” when journey mapping.

To learn more about journey mapping strategies and tactics, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

The 6 Steps of Customer Journey Mapping with Annette Franz

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about this idea of journey mapping and some of the best practices in the space; the why, the what and the how and to do that we have Annette Franz. Multitalented, multi experienced, right now she is the founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. She is also an author and sits on the chair, a board chair on the CXPA, which if I’m not mistaken, you’ve got a fun event coming up. Is that right Annette?

Annette Franz: (00:42)
That is correct. First of all, thank you so much for having me. And yes, we have our annual — this year is our first global insight exchange happening April 27th through the 29th in Orlando, Florida. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (00:54)
Awesome. We’ll make sure we get that out and about, but yeah, thanks for taking the time. I tried to do a little bit of an intro, but anything you’d fill in or a little more about your background and what you do over there at CX Journey.

Annette Franz: (01:07)
Oh gosh. Here’s a funny little tidbit that I like to share because I started in this customer experience space back in the early nineties at JD Power and Associates, and it’s really been fun or interesting or whatever word you want to use for it, to watch how this thing called “customer experience” has, first of all, how it’s come about and how has it evolved over time. Because back in the early nineties, we didn’t even call it customer experience. We talked about satisfaction and loyalty. So yeah, it’s been a fun ride and I’m really enjoying it. This is almost jumping into my fourth year out of my own under CX Journey, Inc. And yeah, working on some fun client projects and client engagements and really enjoying the things that I’m doing right now.

Gabe Larsen: (01:53)
Got it. And then just for my understanding as well, are there certain areas that you specialize in or that are more core to what you like to talk about or who you are, projects, et cetera.

Annette Franz: (02:04)
Most of my engagements, either coaching brand new chief customer officers or folks who are new in that type of position, head of CX, and really working on soup to nuts CX strategy, really talking about what needed to be done and how to get there. Right? So, but, a lot of people know me for — and I know we’re going to be talking a little bit about this today — a lot of people know me for my expertise in journey mapping, but that’s not all I do. Most of my work actually is sort of soup to nuts CX strategy.

Gabe Larsen: (02:36)
Okay. Oh, that’s interesting. Well, we might have to have you back on to talk big picture strategy and some of the things you do there.

Annette Franz: (02:42)
Awesome, I’d love to.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Well, let’s start with the big picture. We were talking, pre-show, just a little bit about journey mapping. Sounds like there are some right ways to do it and some wrong ways to do it, but high level. What is it and why is it important?

Annette Franz: (02:55)
Yeah, that’s actually a great place to start because I think a lot of people confuse it and I’ll share a little story about how I know this happens other than what I read or what I see when I’m seeing the work that some folks are doing. But journey mapping is really a way for us to walk in our customer’s shoes to experience the experience that they’re having as they’re trying to interact or transact with the organization. And it’s really, it’s a step by step, I would say from point A to point B; from the moment that there was that need to do something, for example, calling customer service or making a purchase. Or, what were the steps that the customer took to get from that thought, from that need to when it actually transpired.

Annette Franz: (03:41)
And so when we do journey maps, what we capture is what the customer’s doing, thinking, and feeling. And that’s just so important to ultimately [inaudible] the understanding and then ultimately to be able to fix what’s broken. And it’s really important because of that, right? Because it is — we want everything to, we want to understand our customers and we want everything that we do — in terms of the business and how we design our products and our services and our processes and everything — to be with the customer in mind. And if we don’t take the time to understand what the experience is today and designing a better experience for tomorrow is going to be just as bad because we’re not taking the customer into account.

Gabe Larsen: (04:22)
I love it. I love it. So, that’s a big picture of what it is, some of the things that revolve around it. As you think about customer journey maps, and I’m playing the new card here a little bit, but is this something that every organization should do? Is it a must? Is everybody doing it? How predominant is this in the market?

Annette Franz: (04:45)
So, two part question, right? Is everybody doing it and how is it, why is it important or how is it important to the organization? So a lot of people are doing it or think they’re doing it, but, and I just alluded to this as I answered the previous question, but they’re really not. They are either creating lifecycle maps, which is really the stages of the need awareness, consideration, selection, et cetera, et cetera. And thinking that that’s going to get them to some kind of understanding of the customer experience when it really isn’t. Or, they’re doing touchpoint maps, which are taking those lifecycle stages and then inventorying the touchpoints. But that’s not detailed enough for us either. We need more details so we can understand the experience. Or, they’re all sitting around in a room and creating what we call an assumptive map. And it’s sitting around the room saying, Hey, we think this is what the experience is like. And then they create maps from that. And ultimately it often devolves into a process map and it’s all internal anyways so.

Gabe Larsen: (05:49)
Yeah. Do you, I mean, out of some of those, those seem like obviously maybe not best practice. What is the big challenge that is hindering people from making it effective? Is it the idea that we, I love that word, like an assumptive map that they don’t get detailed enough? They don’t involve people or is it they’re using the wrong tools or; what’s kind of the big barrier that you’re like, Oh man, if people could do this, they’d be so much further along?

Annette Franz: (06:13)
Yeah. That’s a great question. And I think it’s two fold, right? Number one is yes, you’ve got to have the right people in the room and the right people are your customers. And the map has to be created from the customer’s perspective. Right? So, those two things are really key, really critical. The other part of it is, once you’ve done that, you’ve also got to bring in — you’ve got tons of voice of the customer data. You’ve got tons of other data, operational data that you can bring into the maps as well to really; A, go from sort of a qualitative to a quantitative, but then also to really, boost up the power of the maps themselves, by using all of that data to identify the moments of truth. And moments of truth are those make or break moments where a customer says I’m going to move forward with this, or I’m not. And so customers in the room, mapping from the customer perspective and bringing that either voice the customer data or operational data into the map to really enhance the customer viewpoint.

Gabe Larsen: (07:15)
That resonates a lot with me. On the data perspective though, I guess I would probably have a follow up. Bringing the customer, that assumption, you get some people in the room you’re throwing sticky notes up and my guess versus your guess, but actually walking through the shoes of your customer, seeing the customer actually walk you through it. I can see how that adds a lot of value. When you say like operational data, voice of the customer data, okay, I kind of see, but what other data sources are important to bring in to really supplement that map so it does get more media.

Annette Franz: (07:46)
Yeah. That’s a great question. There are a lot of other different kinds of data that you can bring in. So you can bring in not just the voice of the customer feedback in all of its formats, right? So, there’s emotional data, there’s the metrics, the NPS or C-SAT or whatever your metric is. You can bring in other types of data as well. And by that, I mean, things like, let’s go back to the example that I gave with somebody calling customer service, you can bring in things like call volume and whole time and time to resolve and the number of transfers and the channels used and those kinds of things to really make the analysis much more robust. And I also say that you’ve got to bring in what I call, I call it business data for lack of a better thing. But I like to bring in cost to fix, time to fix, effort to fix, impact on the customer, impact on the business, those kinds of things that we can use later on as we’re trying to prioritize what we’re going to do first. Right? So any kind of data like that, that helps us, again, analyze and bring the maps to life.

Gabe Larsen: (08:57)
Yeah. It just makes it more meaty. That’s helpful. I appreciate that. Do you — I am having a hard time how you actually bring it together. Is it, and maybe that’s a technology question or, I’ve gathered this info, I’ve got great interviews, I’ve done stakeholder interviews, I’ve got notes on that. I’ve done maybe some post it notes, maybe you like, or don’t like the post it notes, but I’ve often seen people kind of do the personal example. How does it translate into something real? I mean, are people using PowerPoint? Is it a technology thing? How does it get to a place where you’re like, here is my journey map?

Annette Franz: (09:38)
I love that sound effect because that’s what I use for journey maps too. Oh, it’s just such a aha moment most of the time. But it’s a great question. So yes, most people often start with the butcher paper and the post it notes, and I love to start that way because it is a creative process. And when we have customers in the room, it gets them up and out of their chairs and thinking and talking and Hey, what’s next. And you know, all that. But once you’re done with that, you then need to take it and transfer it into a digital platform so that you can bring that data along. Right? And there are several journey mapping platforms out there that are specifically made for that very purpose. Right? The purpose built to take your dream outs from the analog to the digital. The one thing that I would say is; it’s less about creating that pretty picture and making it look good and stuff. And it’s more about, really is more about A, putting it together, butchering paper and posting notes and then B, being able to bring that data into it. And like I said, you would do that through a digital platform.

Gabe Larsen: (10:48)
I see. I see. And then once the map is created, but before I go there, I do want to get to that in a minute, but other best practices or tips or tricks in that execution or creation part of it? I love bringing in some of the different sources, even the creative, make sure you manage the creative process with maybe some of those types of things, like butcher paper, post it notes. Other best practices you’ve found and kind of getting the ideas out and down and that execution part?

Annette Franz: (11:19)
Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of best practices around creating the maps and then around doing it right. So that once you do have the map created that it is something that you can execute on, right? So there’s a couple of different things, but I wanted to just mention that when I do journey mapping, I have a process to it, right? I look at journey mapping as both a tool, the map itself, and then the process. And the process involves three key things that you have to do in order to get to the sixth step. The sixth step is implementation. But there are three key maps that you have to create. The first one is your journey map. That’s your current state map. The second one is a service blueprint. That service blueprint is an inside look, what’s happening behind the scenes, people, tools, system, processes, policies, all of that, that supports and facilitates the experience that the customer just had and then creates a future state map as well. Because the future state map is where you then design the new experience that you’re now going to go and in step number six, implement. Right? So, those are key components because we can’t fix what’s happening on the outside if we don’t fix what’s happening on the inside. And I think that’s a step that a lot of companies miss is that they try to just identify things in the current state map and go and fix them, but they don’t get at the root of the problem, which is something happening internally.

Gabe Larsen: (12:49)
Got it, got it. And then that — so I liked the idea of the future state. It seems like we would get caught up at times. You just get a current state, you fix some problems. You’re like, I’m done with this. You don’t actually get to that [inaudible] state. So that’s fascinating. The other points you kind of mentioned there, the internal policy thing. Can you double click there? And I don’t know if I quite got that. So you’re saying, how do you bring the internal policies there?

Annette Franz: (13:20)
So, when you create the service blueprint, you basically take — Oh yeah, it’s coming from the service blueprint. In that service blueprint, you’re going to identify the tools and the systems, the people, the processes, and the policies. So if the policies are broken and an employee is trying to do something for a customer and they can’t because the policy is bad or outdated or broken or whatever, we’ll be able to identify that in the service blueprint, because the customer has now identified a pain point in the journey map and the corresponding service blueprint for that journey. We’ll dig deep. We’ll go, well, why is that part broken there? And services, customer service is a great example, you know, right? Because you call customer service and the agent is following a script, and that’s not always the best solution, right? To follow the script. Sometimes it’s better to think about the human on the other end of the phone and do the right thing based on that particular scenario. And so what we can do with those service blueprints is make that connection and say, Oh, okay, something broke here and let’s see why. And so we’ll dig in and go, well, is it a policy? Is this a process with a person who wasn’t trained or whatever it was.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
Yeah, no, I love that. That makes more sense. Okay. And then once that map’s created, it seems like oftentimes you go through all this work to gather, you finally visualize it in some digital or analog format. It seems like — I could see how companies may get stuck there or maybe there is a conversation or one session about it, but then it kind of dies. Like it’s not a living [inaudible] document. Walk us through how you would say would be optimal. Like it’s created, okay. Now that it’s created, now what? What do we do to make this work better?

Annette Franz: (15:10)
Yep, exactly. So, I mentioned the six step process, right? So the third step in the process is what I call identify and identify is all about taking what you just learned in that journey map. So, step one is all the planning, the personas you’re gonna map for what the journey is, the objectives and the scope and the goals and the outcomes and all of those things. Step number two is the actual during mapping workshop, step number three, once you’ve completed that map, the next thing you’re going to do is identify and identify is, what happens in that step is that’s where you convert the map to a digital format. You bring the data in, and all of that. This is where you’re going to identify the moments of truth, those make or break moments.

Annette Franz: (15:56)
And you’re going to also identify what’s happening there. Do some root cause analysis, really dig deep and dig into what is at the heart of the matter. What’s at the heart of the matter, right? And then in this phase, you’re also going to — one of the things that I like to do when I journey map is assign owners to each step of the customer’s journey. And in this third step, as we go through that, we take those owners. This is, I call them the throat to choke, right. That’s why they’re there. And that one throat to choke — if that’s a pain point for our customers, who do we go to, who owns that step in the customer journey and needs to really do the work and identify what’s causing that step in the journey to break. And so we go through root cause analysis workshops.

Annette Franz: (16:43)
We go through other workshops where we start to do some action planning and put together, okay, we found the problem. We know what the problem is, here’s what we’re going to do, here’s our project plan for doing it, here’s who owns it. So it’s a — and you have to handhold folks through this, right? And that’s the fun or not so fun part of it. You have to handhold folks through this and then get it done that way. But yeah, there’s a whole next step after the mapping that you’ve got to get the stakeholders in the room and the owners of those steps in the room and start to dig in and then create your plan for how you’re going to fix it.

Gabe Larsen: (17:18)
And that makes sense, right? I mean, you kind of get the — I like the action planning, kind of the strategic sessions and holding people accountable. I mean, that’s kinda your project. From that point it’s probably more project management, so to say, 101. But even that last piece then, so you — and maybe I’m getting kind of to the end here, but you get, you’ve done that action planning session, you’re holding people accountable, you’re getting it through. Is it wise then to revisit that map once a year and go through another exercise? How do you make it so that it — and maybe you don’t. Maybe, well, that can’t be right actually. You probably don’t want to just [inaudible] exercise right?

Annette Franz: (17:56)
It’s a good question. And you’re right. It might be —

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
Debating myself in my head.

Annette Franz: (18:08)
It’s okay. It’s okay. This is the Gabe podcast. He’s interviewing himself right now folks.

Gabe Larsen: (18:15)
Sorry for that.

Annette Franz: (18:15)
No, you’re fine. No, you’re fine. No, but it is a good question. It really is. And the question is really more around how often do you have to refresh those maps, right? And when should you go back and revisit them? And it’s a fair question. And it’s hard to actually put a timestamp on them because, for a couple of reasons. Number one, how quickly can you go through that process? How quickly can you service blueprint the future state design, because you’ve got to design the future state, and then go and implement that future state.

Annette Franz: (18:52)
So, once that new experience is implemented, now you’ve got to train your employees and you’ve got to let your customers know and set expectations on what the new experience is going to be, et cetera, et cetera. But any time that you get feedback from customers going forward after that, anytime you get feedback from customers that something’s not right, or you’re starting to see sort of these — you’re tracking the experience, right? So anytime you start to see where there’s leakage points, where people are falling out of the experience, they’re abandoning their shopping carts, whatever it is. Anytime that you’ve got product changes, anytime you’re making an acquisition and you’ve got new customer types coming on board, or there’s a lot of things that happen in businesses every day that are an evolution or they’re a change, or there’s something that changes the way we do business and changes the way that our customers will ultimately interact with us. So we need to consider all of those and take a look at those. But the first thing that’s going to tell you that you really need to revisit that map is your customers are going to tell you, Hey, this is not working. I’m not happy. And this could come in many different forms.

Gabe Larsen: (20:04)
I like that. Right? The qualitative or quantitative feedback, I’m starting to see that something’s broken basically. So maybe [inaudible]. That’s probably the best answer. That’s fine. I’ve often wondered, how do you make this more alive? And should you put it on a quarterly, put it in a quarterly review or QBR or whatever you want to call that. But you’re right. You’ll, if you’re honest, you’ll watch kind of the end outcome, which is ultimately your customer feedback in some form or fashion. If that starts to dip or there’s a problem, then obviously maybe something in the background is broken. I love it. Good. That’s helpful. Yeah. Am I an expert? What am I missing? What am I not asking? That’s what I should’ve asked.

Annette Franz: (20:46)
We hit the tip of the iceberg there, but yeah, you did good. We can dive in — again, as we talked about before we started recording, I wrote a book on journey mapping and how to do it. And so there’s that, there’s a lot to it. But no, I think we’ve hit — we’ve touched on a lot of points and any of those points, we could dive into much deeper, but that’s probably for another day.

Gabe Larsen: (21:16)
I got the cliff note version. Okay. I should have — I’m a cliff note.

Annette Franz: (21:21)
Yes that’s a good way to put it.

Gabe Larsen: (21:21)
Awesome. Well, I really appreciate taking the time. I love the talk track mostly because it feels — the best thing about journey mapping, and sometimes I feel like in this service experience space we talk about delighting and you get into those examples of the, you know the tire is being brought back to Nordstrom or stuff that’s sometimes a little harder. It doesn’t feel as tangible. The thing I love about journey mapping, it just feels so real. You’re action planning about real problems and moments of truth. And it’s like, ah, this is tangible. I can do something with it. It’s not “make people happy.” So, thank you for the talk track. I like that it’s practical. I like that it’s tactical. If someone wants to learn a little more about you dive into this, the book, where would you kind of direct them to, to take that next step?

Annette Franz: (22:05)
Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate that. Of course. The best place to find all things about me and information about the book and everything would be my website, which is CX-journey.com. So thank you for that. I appreciate it.

Gabe Larsen: (22:18)
Absolutely. Absolutely. We’ll make sure we get that in the notes here so that people can find it and see it. Again, appreciate the time, like the talk track. For the audience, hope you have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (22:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

How to Do Research-Based Customer Journey Mapping with Bob Thompson from CustomerThink

How to Do Research-Based Customer Journey Mapping with Bob Thompson from CustomerThink TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Bob Thompson from CustomerThink to discuss his recent research on customer experience. Bob is the CEO and founder of CustomerThink and has published a book titled, Hooked on Customers. His career and company are built upon the idea of customer centricity and other customer service management principles. His company has over 60,000 pieces of published content on customer service. In addition to writing authoritative content, Bob conducts primary customer service research. In the newest episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Bob reveals the findings of his most recent study. Listen to the full episode below.

How Journey Mapping Exemplifies Customer Centricity

Journey mapping is a CX principle that used to be unique, but has become a necessary and common practice for all companies. Although most companies practice journey mapping, Bob Thompson reports that only about a third are doing it successfully. Essentially, journey mapping is the process of going through the thoughts of the customer so that they can have a tailored experience. Bob provides a visual representation of this by stating, “think of journey mapping as walking in your customer’s shoes and then take pictures as you go and read their mind.” An effective journey map is one of the best ways to focus on the customer and ensure that your business is putting the needs, thoughts, and feelings of the customer first.

Key Principles to Customer Journey Mapping

Because effective journey mapping can help differentiate between mediocre customer service and quality customer service, Bob suggests two principles to help companies build useful journey maps. First, building them around personas. He states, “different people experience a brand in different ways. And so one of the top factors we found… is to develop personas for each of the customers, with each of the key customer segments and then build journey maps around each of these personas.” Separating customers into personas to customize their experience is a smart way to maintain customer centricity.

The second principle of successful journey mapping is to be specific and create a full journey map. Rather than segmenting the process, laying out the entire map allows for an uninterrupted flow from beginning to end. This also helps customer service experts better understand the long term goals and expectations of the businesses/people they serve. Bob mentions, “So if it’s a business, what is it they’re trying to get done? I think this is absolutely critical. What are — in the end — they trying to accomplish with this experience?” Customers have their own long term goals so going through the entire journey of the customer helps them feel understood.

The “Future State” of Customer Service

As a final observation, Bob talks about the importance of the “future state” in the customer experience. Most of the time, CX experts focus on fixing the problem at hand instead of honing in on designing a future experience for customers. When trying to create this experience, customer service representatives tend to forget that the CX journey begins long before the customer calls customer service. When sales expectations aren’t met by a product or there is a problem with the product, people call customer service as if they were the problem. Bob explains this concept and the need for companies to create a future experience by stating: “So, CX is about figuring out where we’re screwing up, and let’s go fix that. And you know, that’s fine. Everybody has room for improvement. …We want to drive towards a planned or designed experience as opposed to fixing the mess that we already have.”

To learn more about customer experience strategies, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Do Research-Based Customer Journey Mapping with Bob Thompson from CustomerThink

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright welcome everybody to today’s podcast. We’re going to be talking about journey mapping; how important it is, why you should do it, how you can be thinking about doing it. And to do that, we brought on the guests today Bob Thompson. He is the founder and CEO of CustomerThink. He also wrote a book called Hooked On Customers, but really an expert in the idea of customer centricity, bringing brands together, how they should manage their business more appropriately. So, excited to get into the talk track today. This is one that journey mapping has been asked a lot about. I think some of the research and the findings that Bob will bring will be very interesting. So Bob, thanks for joining. How are you?

Bob Thompson: (00:51)
I’m great. Thanks for having me, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (00:53)
Yeah, yeah. I always appreciate you taking the time. It’s fun to kind of do the podcast and meet a lot of leaders, thought leaders like yourself. So thank you for jumping on. Talk just a little bit about anything you’d add or get into your background, more about some of the things you’ve done or what CustomerThink does, just so the audience has that kind of pillar?

Bob Thompson: (01:11)
Yeah, absolutely. So CustomerThink is an online community. It’s free. People can visit or they can join and get our newsletter. We’ve been around for two decades and the core idea is customer centricity. How do we treat our customers better and create a better business as a result of doing that. So that’s the online community. I run that. We’ve published a lot of content, several thousand posts a year. We have, I think, close to 60,000 pieces of content. It’s been over 3000 authors. So it’s a big community covering customer experience, customer service. If it’s related to customers, we cover it. In addition to that, I also do research, I do primary research. And I usually do two or three studies a year and I’ll be sharing some of my findings from a study we did recently on over 200 customer experience initiatives. So, I do a lot of research and do some public speaking as well.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I love it. I love it. Well, we’ll get into that. So let’s maybe start — appreciate the overview on your background. This was a topic that was asked about a lot from the audience, customer journey mapping or process flows. Big picture — maybe just for those that don’t know, tell us just a little bit about what it is and maybe why a company should be thinking about this.

Bob Thompson: (02:33)
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question. It’s become kind of the go-to thing that if you’re doing a customer experience program, you’re probably doing two things. One, you’re collecting feedback. And number two, you’re doing a journey mapping project. Now it’s not a hundred percent, but it’s a very high percentage. Those are sort of the two activities that are associated with doing customer experience. Now there’s a lot more to it than that, but those are two that came up in our study. And so in terms of journey mapping, the idea is you’ve probably heard this expression walk in your customer’s shoes, right?

Gabe Larsen: (03:12)
Right.

Bob Thompson: (03:13)
And so when you think of journey mapping is walking in your customer’s shoes and then take pictures as you go and read their mind. So you’re trying to understand it and create a visual depiction of what your customer is literally experiencing, what they’re thinking, feeling, what sort of interactions they are having as they interact with your company. So it could be in marketing or using your product or service, customer service. So, ideally it should be everything and use that as a diagnostic tool.

Gabe Larsen: (03:45)
I love it. I love it. Do you feel like — how proficient or how extensive is this idea? I mean, having done some research does every organization do it? Is this a new idea for most people? What’s the penetration of this into organizations would you say? It’s pretty high. I’d say the penetration of doing it well is not that high. Maybe, maybe a third. I mean, but this is typical. Not every company starts out being an expert in anything. I know I didn’t. So, it’s not a knock, it’s just to say that if you look at new programs, they’re learning a lot of different things about how to collect feedback, how to do analytics, how to do journey mapping and to say, well, they’re, you know, they’re not doing very well because they’re not an expert at journey mapping. That’s not really fair. Having said that, I think that there is a lack of skill and completeness that we found in our study that the more successful CX initiatives did journey mapping more thoroughly and more effectively. I talk about what that means. We’re only talking about maybe one out of four that I would say are doing a pretty respectable job of it.

Gabe Larsen: (04:57)
I like that. So one out of four. So definitely room for improvement when it comes to this area. So let’s get into some of the findings. I mean big picture, any kind of big takeaways before you get into tactical of how to do it? Any surprises in the data that you saw?

Bob Thompson: (05:14)
I think one thing that surprised me is that I did a study I think three years ago and what we found — and this was very, this was specific to customer service by the way. What we found is that just doing a journey mapping project was a success indicator. In other words, it was one of the factors and more successful companies are able to increase customer satisfaction. Just doing it, not how well did you do it, but did you do one? It was a plus, right?

Gabe Larsen: (05:44)
Just going through the exercise. Yeah, I could see that. I can see that.

Bob Thompson: (05:50)
What changed is that’s no longer true. It was a differentiator maybe three years ago or so, but you know, attempting one– I mean there are definitely benefits to doing a journey mapping project. You bring people together, you understand your customer better and doing one versus not doing one when you’re at a relatively immature status is fine.

Gabe Larsen: (06:14)
Right.

Bob Thompson: (06:14)
But now, customer experience is not a new idea. There’s lots of programs out there that have been out two, three, four, 10 years and so we have a much better base to look at what is it about the actual process of journey mapping. And we didn’t find just doing one was a success indicator anymore. You have to do it more effectively. And we came up with a number of different elements of what makes an effective journey mapping project and we have data to back that up.

Gabe Larsen: (06:44)
I love it. I love it. Well let’s get into some of those cause I do think the big ask was, you’re right. People seem to know the concept. I think the effectiveness, how to make it impactful, how to do it the right way. Maybe walk us through some of those findings or recommendations on how people should be thinking about doing it again, well.

Bob Thompson: (07:02)
Well, what I’ll start by saying, if you — again, this concept of walking in your customer’s shoes, and the question that I think everyone should ask is which customer? Not some generic customer or what we think the customer is, but to actually have key customer segments or often called personas. So you can say, Hey, we’re going to create a journey mapping for our senior executive that’s making a technology purchase. Maybe it’s a different persona for somebody that’s a user using the product– maybe using customer service. Different people experience a brand in different ways. And so one of the top, factors we found, again, we have analytics behind this and a lot of experts to back this up, is to develop personas for each of the customers — with each of the key customer segments — and then build journey maps around each of these personas.

Gabe Larsen: (07:55)
Hmm. Hmm. And is that, when you think about personas — it’s really just about the types of customers that you obviously interact with. Do you go, how deep down in that persona do you go? Is it, try to keep it a little more high level or do you get very specific about industry, title, function, company size? What’s too granular versus too high?

Bob Thompson: (08:22)
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, you can get lost in the weeds here. And you know, never get your head out after developing personas. But, I would say that they need to be developed at a fairly granular level. So you’d want, what job title are we talking about? What is the size of the company? So some of the standard demographics, there would be, what are their goals? So if it’s a business, what is it they’re trying to get done? I think this is absolutely critical. What are — in the end — they trying to accomplish with this experience because that turns out to be one of the five things that it came out as a differentiator is that being — understanding the outcomes and defining them in the journey map is really critical because it’s not just about how easy it was. It’s like, well, did it actually help accomplish their — what they had in mind?

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
That makes a big difference. Do you, maybe just one clarification for me. As you identify those personas, how important is it to do, and maybe I’m jumping ahead, but how important is it to do kind of the whole journey or is it better to kind of bite size it and say, let’s just talk about the pre-buying experience or the post purchase experience. How do you think about the actual journey?

Bob Thompson: (09:43)
Yeah, that is an absolutely critical question and there isn’t one right answer. I’ll tell you that from our research, what we found is that more successful CX programs overall tended to do the end to end journey. But, everybody has to start somewhere and part of the challenge with CX is that it becomes a boiling the ocean problem. There are so many things you could do, where do you start? And so, it’s definitely feasible to start and say customer service. You know, you can get your feet wet and learn some things about what the service experience looks like because that has some complexity. But the danger of starting in any one part of the journey and staying there is that you lose sight of the handoffs. And so what happens when you go from marketing to sales to service? There’s a set of problems that have to do with the handoffs and the sales and then there were problems within a particular function and in the end they both need to be addressed.

Gabe Larsen: (10:54)
That’s right. That the hand offs, it’s like they’re, I mean, I don’t — I’m not the expert in journey mapping, just having run sales and marketing. The old sales and marketing debate, that is a problem. Whenever you have two people in a room, it’s always a little harder than having just one. So, you’re right. Anytime there’s a hand off, you have challenges and if you don’t manage that or think about it, you’re probably losing a little bit of that [inaudible].

Bob Thompson: (11:23)
I think for customer service managers, which I understand is our key audience here, I mean, let’s face it; they can be the dumping ground for problems that happen elsewhere in the company. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true, right? You know the product didn’t work, so they call customer service and they’re angry at customer service. Is it customer service’s fault that the product was bad or is it the customer service fault that sales made a promise —

Gabe Larsen: (11:48)
How could the sales promise [inaudible]. It’s always the salespeople who are causing problems but —

Bob Thompson: (11:57)
But, rather than blame, it’s not about blaming but say, but these problems tend to happen somewhere else. And so, if you start in customer service, which is a very common starting point for CX programs, then you want to expand and say, all right, so here’s a set of problems that, why is the customer calling because they’re confused. Where did that confusion start? Maybe it started in a marketing message or a sales promise or somewhere else. And work on those root cause problems rather than saying, well let’s hammer customer service and make sure they fix those problems. They can’t fix them all.

Gabe Larsen: (12:32)
You’re right, you’re right. You really need to probably look at that holistic. But you know, you’ve also got to start where you can and do what you can. So, okay, so one is persona. I like this conversation about chunking it or potentially looking at the whole journey. What else works; some of the findings or best practices as you look at this exercise?

Bob Thompson: (12:51)
Yeah, I’ll talk about a couple of others together because they’re related. What is the information or the data that you use to build a journey map? And it’s relatively easy, maybe not easy, but relatively easy to get a bunch of employees in a room and say, all right, what do we think the journey looks like? So you can get posted notes and start outlining the steps and what you think is going on. And, that’s not a bad way to start. It might help you find some of your colleagues elsewhere in the company, but, it’s not a good practice if you stop there. The best practice is to get customers directly involved in this problem. You have some key customers you bring in, maybe some of them representing these personas. It can help you do a reality check on what’s going on. And you can use data, which is the other thing, which is from customer feedback or maybe you have analytics which will just show you where some points of friction or problems and so on. And so when you build a journey map, it’s not just, here’s an internal view of what’s going on, but here’s a view informed by research, by feedback, by customers, and then you’ve got a solid foundation to build upon.

Gabe Larsen: (14:08)
I love that. I love that. Is that something that you feel like people get tripped up on that? I mean often times they do just rely on the internal resource. That’s kind of a challenge people often face.

Bob Thompson: (14:20)
It is, and it’s difficult to get customers involved but [inaudible] CX programs, figure out a way to do it, and they do it. And they use data that they already have. You don’t necessarily have to go out and do another research project, but if you say, look, we want to understand what’s happening in the buying experience, well, you have a website, you have analytics, you have some surveys that we get feedback and you can get some indication without doing flush research about where the problems are. So, make it a habit and you at least start with a better journey map.

Gabe Larsen: (15:00)
I love it. So, data, internal and external is going to give you more of a holistic view. Okay. That’s fair. Got it. Okay. What’s next?

Bob Thompson: (15:11)
Here’s one that I think is a more advanced process, but it definitely popped up as a differentiator. When I say differentiator, I mean that we saw a statistical difference, but the things I’m talking about here, we saw a statistically different level of effectiveness of CX programs that were successful and those that were not. And by successful I mean able to show some business value. So there’s some real data behind these recommendations, but the one that I think tends to get forgotten the most is looking to the future; and so often called a future state journey map. So, and I think this one I want to probably end on this one because I think it points to one of the biggest problems I see in the CX industry, which is it has what I call a find and fix paradigm.

Gabe Larsen: (16:10)
Okay.

Bob Thompson: (16:11)
So, CX is about figuring out where we’re screwing up, and let’s go fix that. And you know, that’s fine. Everybody has room for improvement. Well, what leaders, CX leaders do as they’re thinking about how to innovate. How can we — we want to get so close to the customer, we understand what they’re trying to accomplish, how fast you want to accomplish and we’re going to create a future experience that’s dramatically different and better. These future state maps then become a planning tool so you can say, Hey, while we’re fixing what’s broken in customer service or the product or whatever it is, these things people are complaining about, can we get a real edge on our competitors? That’s the future state and we want to drive towards a planned or designed experience as opposed to fixing the mess that we already have.

Gabe Larsen: (17:08)
I love that. Yeah. It’s like the current state. It’s so easy because you find some of these problems and you quickly fix them and you’re feeling good, but you don’t actually take that time to say in a year or two years from now, what does optimal look like? What are we building towards? I can see tons of people stopping on the current state. That’s a — I’ve done that. I’ve done that. One tactical question for you, what do people normally, as you get building this, is it they sketch it on a piece of paper, they use it like a charting tool, like a lucid chart. Is there any recommendations that you’ve found that makes this a little easier to do when you’re actually trying to visualize it? You’ve got past maybe the post it notes and you’re trying to put pen to paper.

Bob Thompson: (17:55)
Well, I would say that the more advanced you get, the less likely you’re going to be using PowerPoint or some flowcharting tool. These journey maps can be quite big. I’ve seen some that literally you could put them up on the wall and when they are up on the wall, they’re 20 feet long and it can be daunting. So, there are some specialized tools out there. I am not an expert on all those tools and I have not found any one sort of —

Gabe Larsen: (18:25)
I wondered if there was a magical one out there.

Bob Thompson: (18:27)
I think post-its, you can’t get simpler than that and it is an excellent way of getting started. But I want to stop short of trying to give a recommendation on what to do from there.

Gabe Larsen: (18:41)
You’re right, I appreciate the honesty because I’ve wondered if there is one tool that rules them all, but it sounds like you’ve got to kind of find where you are. There’s some simple, maybe some more complex and find what works and make it happen. I think the exercise is probably more important than tools. So that’s going to hear. Okay. Well Bob, really appreciate the time. Very interesting findings on customer journey mapping, mapping the whole experience end to end. If someone wants to learn a little bit more about CustomerThink or dive even deeper into this topic, is there a quick summary or recommendations you’d point them to?

Bob Thompson: (19:17)
Yeah, I mean if you come to customerthink.com one of our topic areas is the customer journey. Okay. So you can come into — there’s a big tab on the top named customer experience and there’s one on customer journey map below that. If somebody comes and clicks on that they’re going to get dozens of excellent articles and blog posts from many of the leading experts in the industry as well as myself on this topic. So, that’s a really good option. And then you can go into Google and you asked about techniques for actually presenting a journey map, and the reason I say I don’t know what to recommend is that I’ve seen lots of different ways of doing it that all work. So do the search on Google under customer journey map and then click on images and you will get probably a hundred different ways of doing it. Also, I think there are some experts in the industry, many of the CX professionals get into the details of actually doing those through some vendors that provide tools. There’s a lot of resources out there to help people. And I honestly, I think most companies would be advised to get some help because this is such a key diagnostic and planning tool, but you don’t want to screw it up. Do it right. It’s going to help you make better decisions on how to make customer experience better.

Gabe Larsen: (20:40)
I think that’s great. Yeah. Sometimes you do, you think you can knock this out, but it does take a real expertise there are people out there who can help. So Bob, again, really appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re a busy person. You know many things going on at CustomerThink, so can’t thank you enough for the advice and some of the recommendations as well as takeaways for customer journey mappings. So thanks again for joining for the audience. Hope you have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Making Customer Service Faster and Smarter With AI with Omar Pera

Making Customer Service Faster and Smarter With AI with Omar Pera TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Omar Pera, CEO at Reply AI, joins Gabe Larsen to discuss how to use artificial intelligence to make customer service faster and smarter. Omar’s background is in solar engineering. His first job in customer service was at CERN, a physics lab in Switzerland, where he deployed the internal customer service tool for 2000 employees. Later on, Omar moved to New York to work with Big Civil, a tech startup. On nights and weekends Omar worked with his brother, Pablo Pera, developing some indie apps that became really successful with more than 50 million downloads in different markets. Fast forward to 2015, Omar wanted to know the penalty fee for a flight change, and after a terrible customer experience Reply AI was born as an easy way to automate conversations. Omar has extensive knowledge in the technology sphere and provides valuable insights on how technology and artificial intelligence can help create an exceptional customer service experience. Listen to the full podcast episode below.

Instantaneous is the Expectation of the Customer

Every customer service team knows that the customer wants their issues resolved, quickly. Customer experience is becoming more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty. Businesses who prioritize customer experience are the ones succeeding and the ones with more engaged customers. Omar shared a story about being on hold for 45 minutes and waiting 7 days for an email just to find the answer to his question about a flight change fee. This experience motivated him to build a platform that would help automate the most common question businesses receive. Customers want instantaneous solutions to their problems and they want to do it themselves. Omar states, “67% of customers prefer self-service over talking to an agent. … I believe that companies should be focusing on self-serve.” Intelligent automation as part of the customer service strategy not only keeps your customers happier, it also improves the efficiency of your agents.

Chatbots and Other Efficient AI Applications

Chatbots are typically the first platform thought of when it comes to customer service, and for good reason. Almost every business uses charbots to reduce unnecessary engagements with agents. Simple problems and questions can be answered much faster with chatbots. However, Omar points out that there are some other good examples of how to use AI in customer service: agent assistants, automatic categorization of tickets, smart routing or deflection. Omar summarizes:

“Everyone thinks that chatbots can solve everything. Not at all. Really, you can use a chatbot just to gather information and then hand over to an agent. That’s already helping your agents to be more efficient and the customer doesn’t need to wait for that initial “hello” from the agent to start solving their issue. Or, going a little further, you can do some API calls, integrate with your backend, and fully resolve issues”

There are so many different ways to use AI that companies are missing out on because they are only focusing on using chatbots to answer questions. The positive customer experience of the future has AI integrated into several stages of the customer journey.

How to Start Integrating AI into Your Company

Starting the AI journey is no easy task. There are so many things that can be automated, which is intimidating. Omar understands how hard it is and shares, “Start with one, one automation at a time. Focus only on that one… If you have live chat for example, why not understand which topic has the most volume and start gathering information about that today. Maybe a chatbot that answers “Where is my order?”. Ask the customer what is their order number and then hand it over to an agent. Once you control that, move to the next step: integrate with your backend so that later we can give them the tracking code… Start small. Start today.” After doing an audit of your company and the processes that should be automated, pick one, and get started. It will be a gradual process but Omar assures that it will be well worth it in the end. Good customer experience should revolve around making sure the customers get their answers with little friction and in a timely manner.

To learn more about AI and automation in customer service and how to integrate it into your company, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Making Customer Service Faster and Smarter With AI with Omar Pera

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:10)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about artificial intelligence. We’re going to be talking about some recent news that happened here at Kustomer. We acquired a company called Reply.ai and they bring a wealth of information in the bot deflection and artificial intelligence category. And so we brought on Omar Pera, who’s currently the CEO and founder of Reply.ai and is taking on a Director of Product Position at Kustomer. And we want to dive into this idea of chat bots, AI, and how companies are using these different tools to be more efficient and more effective. So Omar, I appreciate you joining. How are you?

Omar Pera: (00:56)
Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:58)
Yeah, I think this will be exciting and congratulations on the big announcement.

Omar Pera: (01:03)
Thanks so much. This being the most exciting two days of pretty much my life except my wedding, so it’s been pretty good.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
I love it. Well, yeah, tell us just real quick. I mean, it’s obviously been a busy couple of weeks. Well, we probably better start a little higher. I wanted to jump right in the announcement, but maybe let’s start with just a little bit about you and Reply. Can you tell us a little bit about what Reply does and a little bit about your background?

Omar Pera: (01:31)
Yeah. So, my background is in solar engineering actually. I started my career in bioinformatics, then moved to CERN, which is a very famous physics lab in Switzerland. And actually my first job in customer service was at CERN. It was a physics lab that I deployed the internal customer service tool for 2000 employees there. And then after that I moved to New York, to work in a tech startup. And then on the nights and weekends, Pablo Pera, which is my brother too and co-founder of Reply, myself and a small team, we created some indie apps that got very successful in the markets. And then after that I jumped, diving into Reply.

Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
I love it. What was the reason to move to New York? Was it just wanting to — I mean, obviously, originally, Spain is home, correct?

Omar Pera: (02:24)
Well it is home today. I’ve been around eight years outside Spain. I went to first UK, then Germany, then Switzerland for CERN, and then I moved to New York–

Gabe Larsen: (02:38)
Oh yeah because CERN would’ve been in Switzerland. Yeah that’s right

Omar Pera: (02:38)
And then I moved to New York, to be working with Big Civil, which is a company that got acquired for a bunch of dollars. It was a pretty exciting moment there. Then later that’s when I started Reply.

Gabe Larsen: (02:58)
Okay so that makes more sense. So you’ve bounced there, so you’re quite the international traveler, it sounds like.

Omar Pera: (03:03)
I am. But I still have a funny accent. I cannot deal with that.

Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
It just depends on where you are if the accent is funny or not. You know, I lived a couple of years in the Middle East, a couple of years in Germany and my accent was weird to them there as well. So, no harm, no foul. It sounded like you did when you mentioned you had successful Indie apps, it was very successful. I mean to the tune of millions of downloads, is that correct?

Omar Pera: (03:29)
Yeah. We deployed around 10 or 12 apps to the markets, on many different verticals. It was just our own ideas and some of them actually got into the order of millions to a total of 50 million downloads.

Gabe Larsen: (03:44)
Oh wow. Wow. Hopefully you were charging a couple bucks per download on those.

Omar Pera: (03:47)
No, I know. I wish. I wish, but no, it was a combination of advertising and other things.

Gabe Larsen: (03:55)
If it was, we probably wouldn’t be talking right now. Right. If you’re doing five dollar– So I’m glad you didn’t. I’m glad you didn’t do that. Well let’s get into Reply then. I mean you kind of walked us through the background and then you ended saying, we then started Reply. So what was the story behind that? How did it start? Why Reply?

Omar Pera: (04:16)
Yeah, so it was funny because one of the apps, [inaudible]. So from five emails, we got into 50 emails and then 100 emails per day. So we could not keep up. We actually hired on a freelancer or other services there, some contractors, but really we could not keep that momentum. And then actually one day, this was 2015 one day I wanted to know the price of the penalty for a flight change. So I called an airline, and waited on hold for 45 minutes and then the phone disconnected and it was super annoying. And then I sent an email and waited for seven days to respond. So I really knew that that was a bad experience.

Gabe Larsen: (05:01)
It was seven days, huh?

Omar Pera: (05:03)
Seven days to respond just to understand it was 70 bucks of the penalty fee. So we really knew that that was a very bad customer experience. We also knew that from being a customer. So we hate to wait, like everyone hates to wait. So we had a look at the market and said I don’t think there is a platform out there today that makes it very easy to automate conversations. So that was the beginning of Reply. We now are a customer service automation platform now integrating to Kustomer. We help companies to resolve their most common questions without any agent in the region.

Gabe Larsen: (05:42)
Oh my goodness. So important. I just feel like — it’s funny because I’ve often debated this kind of bot versus, deflection bot versus human interaction. That’s been a conversation for a while. But man, in the last couple of months, the amount of energy and the amount of focus that companies are putting on doing more with less kind of to use your line to eliminate that agent. It just seems like it got — it was important, don’t get me wrong, but now it’s like, wow, it’s really important. Right? It’s just kind of the times have changed. So, one more followup to that. I think you’ve kind of hit on this, but I want to just double click it and that is, what then really was the core thing you were trying to solve for Reply?

Omar Pera: (06:35)
Yeah. So we experienced both sides of the problem, right? As a company, as business owners and as myself as a customer. So these gave us unique insights, how to fix the problem because first, for any company of the planet who is growing, it’s very, very hard to scale customer service. That’s pretty much a fact. So we sit down to set ourselves to solve that problem. And the ultimate goal is pretty much to have a great customer experience and make customer service faster and smarter. That’s what we really want to do. So we started doing that on Reply by providing a do it yourself tabled platform. And then we quickly realized that there was more than just chat. So we’ve expanded our offering to provide self-serve on all channels, including chat, email and your contact form. And I think to date, which I believe is going to be around 1 million and a half consumers have gotten any answer from us without waiting.

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Wow. Wow. Okay. So those are the number of answers or deflections or self service inquiries that have been solved.

Omar Pera: (07:47)
Yeah, the number of customers who have been touched with our automation and being helped.

Gabe Larsen: (07:53)
So over a million is where you’re currently standing. And the great thing is it isn’t just, that last point you mentioned, it isn’t just the bot, it’s actually email you said and what was the last one?

Omar Pera: (08:05)
So we can replace the contact form by using your FAQ. So the FAQ is usually the most creative piece of self-serve that any company has. So we try to make use of it so that whenever you are submitting a contact form, we provide you with suggestions for that contact form. So they don’t need to wait.

Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
Fascinating. And again, just so timely and maybe I’ll follow that up with that. I mean, why do you think it is so timely? Why is it so important now that people start to think about these types of tools, these types of technologies?

Omar Pera: (08:41)
Well, COVID is one of the causes, which is very sad, but at the same time, it has caused that customer service is totally overwhelmed. And the reality is that people still expect that you solve the issues fast.

Gabe Larsen: (08:57)
Yeah.

Omar Pera: (08:57)
They are used to one day delivery. So maybe now with a three day delivery, they’re going to find that not with a one week delivery. Right. So I will say that today for even any business consumer company, if you have a contact form or an email and you have three to seven days response time, you know that you have a problem. Right? So I think it is — every company has learned to do social very well, but usually customer service has been a call center right in the background of every company. So I think now more than ever, customer service is also part of your brand and the only, not the only, there are many solutions out there, but, AI and better self serve can really help get your company in a very good position to have a good customer experience.

Gabe Larsen: (09:48)
Hmm. Interesting. I mean, it does seem like there was some good — and maybe you have those off the top of your head, but there’s some good stats out there that really highlight the need for this new age world, which is people do want answers more quickly. They expect it. To your point, it’s a little more part of your brand. You have a couple of those off the top of your head.

Omar Pera: (10:11)
I have one which is the most funny one is that consumers would rather go to the dentist than contacting a company by phone. That is hilarious. And then you mix that with I think it’s 67% customers prefer self-serve over talking to an agent. So I think you put those two together and you have everything that every company is struggling to maintain that level of productivity. I believe that companies should be focusing on self-serve.

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
Wow. Yeah. That idea that 67% of consumers would prefer to do self service. Why do you think that? I mean, truthfully, I believe that. I’m a consumer, we’re all consumers ourselves. And I think I have my own reasons. But what was the why behind that? Just in your own opinion, why do you think people want that?

Omar Pera: (11:09)
So I believe today we are very impatient and we want answers as fast as possible. Even the rise of messaging. Everyone is texting, is doing texts these days, right? With WhatsApp or Telegram, all those messaging apps that are popping up, they have even more traffic than social today. So I think that instantaneous communication, you want that translated into the brands that you love.

Gabe Larsen: (11:43)
Yeah, yeah. I mean we all — that instant, I love that word. It’s instant gratification. Sometimes it’s used in a negative context, but truthfully, I want it, I want it now and some of the current environment I don’t think has helped that. So let’s see if we can get into a couple examples here. I love the idea — I mean, you’ve got a strong background in artificial intelligence, machine learning. AI is definitely a big talk track in customer service today. Obviously it fits into some of the things we’ve talked about doing more with less. What are a few examples of using AI in customer service? Let’s see if we can click down there.

Omar Pera: (12:21)
Yeah. So today when you say AI in customer service, everyone is thinking about chatbots correct? But I think we should not end there and maybe we should not even start there. So we will have that. But they believe that there are many, many good examples of AI including chatbots that you can apply to your company. So one of them could be like agent assistant, right? You have an assistant who is helping your agents to be more efficient by suggesting answers on real time and it can even learn from past behaviors. So it’s really helping you out. Another one, very simple is to categorize your tickets automatically. Like how many companies do have one or two people categorizing those tickets in order to get to the right person or even later for insights. The most typical one today who has been a big one in the phone space has been smart routing, who to direct this issue to based on what you know. That is a big one.

Omar Pera: (13:33)
So we’ve already gone through three and then the fourth is usually chat bots. Correct. Everyone thinks of chatbots as a chatbot that can solve everything. Not at all. Really, you can use a chatbot just to gather information and then hand over to an agent. That’s already helping your agents to be more efficient and the customer actually to not need to wait for that initial hello from the agent or you can actually go a little bit further and do some API calls, integrate with your backend and fully resolve issues. I think the last piece, which I believe is the one where on Reply, we’ve been focusing the latest, which is deflection with your FAQ. Everyone has an FAQ today and you can really provide recommended suggested articles in a very smart way and try to really provide that paragraph that really works and resonates with the customer asking a question so that they can get resolved that issue faster.

Gabe Larsen: (14:32)
Got it. Okay. So we got agent assists, we’ve got, categorization of conversations, routing, chatbots and some of the deflection I think is what you talked about. Couple of follow ups on that. One is, that is a lot. So if you were going to start, if you were going to recommend for someone to start somewhere on their AI journey, which one of those initiatives would you maybe start them on?

Omar Pera: (14:55)
So I will say that usually the biggest problem is that you have too much volume, right? So the simplest way to set up something is usually deflection because you already have an FAQ, right? So that’s usually the first step that I will suggest. And then if we move into — if you have live chat, that usually depends on the channels. If you have live chat, why not understand which is your one topic that you have more volume on and start gathering information for that topic today. Just a little chat bot that says, Hey, maybe it is “Where is my order?” questions are your top one. So let’s just do a chatbot that’s only that. Ask the customer what is their order number and then hand it over to an agent. You can do that in a day, today. Later, okay, let’s integrate with your backend so that later we can give them the tracking code. Okay, good. Next step, we can get the tracking code, we can call the shipping provider and we can get them the exact day that it’s going to be delivered. So it’s an iterative process and there is no risk. So I think that’s important. But the biggest piece of advice that I usually give to every single company is to start very small and start today.

Gabe Larsen: (16:19)
I liked that iterative process, right? Because I don’t know if there is a way you can just — I think truthfully that’s maybe one of the mistakes I did when I first was playing around. I’ll use the chat bot just as an example. I thought, you know what, I can just throw it up on my website and be done. That was a mistake. You kind of needed to go through what you were talking about; build, measure, repeat. I learned that the hard way, but I think that’s a great principle to live by. Let’s see if we can continue down that journey. So as we think about getting AI into CX, I love your iterative process, but you were also saying, Gabe, as we’ve worked with companies, I like this idea of starting small and starting today. I want to continue down that journey. What are some, what do you mean by that?

Omar Pera: (17:03)
So this means that for someone, one of our customers, you saw a large marketplace and they have many, many different types of issues. From, where’s my order to scheduling issues, to refunds, change orders. So there is a lot. So what we need is just to start with one, start with one, one automation at a time. Focus on that one. Don’t focus on any other topic. You can focus on two or three. Okay. But it is even better to just do one and then — but the most important part is if you do one you do that very well and everything else reduces that friction to the customer. So that’s very important. For example, when I mean they could start today and start small; do you have an FAQ contact form? Okay. Start today with an FAQ deflection. What are you waiting for? You can remove even 40% of your questions with that. Or do you have live chat?

Gabe Larsen: (17:58)
40% of your questions? Oh, so they wouldn’t put them in the form, they could just get answers via the deflection.

Omar Pera: (18:04)
Suggested articles. Yeah. If you have a good knowledge base, you can get suggested articles and usually customers are not browsing anymore a lot of knowledge spaces because usually they are tired of searching and not finding anything. Right. So if you bring AI to bring the answer to the question at the right moment, they are going to pay attention.

Gabe Larsen: (18:24)
Hmm. Got it. Got it. Okay. So start small. Start today. I love some of those examples, whether it’s contact form or live chat, you can get something that resolves your order or deflect something. Okay. Where do you go next? What’s kind of — after you start small, start today, what’s your next principle to get people up and going here?

Omar Pera: (18:40)
So the concept I would say is pretty simple. Make it very easy to find answers. Make it very easy. That means that you have a knowledge base, open it, very visible, not in the footer.

Omar Pera: (18:55)
Their knowledge base. They write all these great articles. No one ever uses it, right?

Omar Pera: (18:59)
Correct. And they have the contact us page on one side and their knowledge base on the other like put your contact page, inside your knowledge base. Make your articles short and sweet. Simplify it. Cutting to short sentences. This is not marketing, this is more about really going to the point to solve that question and I think it’s very important. These are common mistakes where I see like the knowledge base is a structure from the point of view of the company. I think flip that. Flip the navigation of your knowledge base into the point of view of the customer and the common problems that they are going to have.

Gabe Larsen: (19:33)
Yes. Yeah, it is interesting. It does feel like — you’ve mentioned a few other things but it does seem like often the knowledge base is hidden. It’s kind of back in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out where the knowledge base is and the thing that I love that you guys do or that you’ve talked to me a little about is just bringing that knowledge base to the customer. That may mean some of the deflection capabilities, but you know now I don’t have to go search. I may be chatting with a bot and the bot is actually bringing that knowledge base from the back to the front to me rather than having me go find it. I love that idea. I just think that’s so easy. It’s to your point, it’s getting answers easy and reducing friction. Okay, so we’ve got one, two, three. What is, what’s the next one? Where do you go next when you coach people on this journey?

Omar Pera: (20:17)
So I believe this one could also be one of the most important parts if you don’t want to damage your brand, which is don’t frustrate your customers. This is such a simple idea. And everyone usually will say that they are not trying, but if you do any automation, you need to be not careful. You need to have a good process. If you do any automation today, like dude, never pretend that you’re a human ever.

Gabe Larsen: (20:45)
Oh, interesting.

Omar Pera: (20:46)
Yeah, that’s, that’s my point of view. There are many others who believe in a different way, but I have a strong point of view on that. Another strong point of view which I’ve also seen in the market quite a lot is the, “Sorry, I don’t understand” message right? Chatbots have been a little bit controversial in the past few years going in ups and downs because I believe it is not about the technology was not there, not like if you improve it has improved a lot, the technology. But I think the process is very important. So the process to create a nice conversation design brings that maybe you don’t need that “Sorry, I don’t understand” message. Forget that. Get out of the way. Automation, get out of the way very fast. Go to an agent directly. If you don’t understand a question, reduce the friction. So I think that is very important. And then just to put a concrete example, remember the chatbot about “Where is my order?” that I mentioned before? If the customer says absolutely anything that is not related to “Where is my order?” you go to an agent directly without waiting, without doing anything, without rephrasing, just go to an agent. Maybe ask their name and email and go for it right away.

Gabe Larsen: (22:03)
Wow. Yeah. So you are, don’t mess with the bot, get to the agent faster. Don’t mess with it so much is what I’m hearing you say there. Wow. All right, well, last question before I let you go and then I would love to hear maybe a quick summary. But, again, congratulations on the news. I’ve never had a company acquired. I’m sure you’re kind of on cloud nine. Can you give us, from your perspective, it’s been a busy couple of weeks the last two weeks, but how did it all kind of go down and, are you excited about the result? Are you excited about the next step and joining Kustomer? Give us kind of your quick take on the last couple of weeks here.

Omar Pera: (22:49)
Yeah, so I actually told my brother last year in a Slack message that I just saw a demo with Kustomer and I was so amazed, so amazed about the product that I believe that they will pretty much eat the whole market share of digital customer service with a powerful CRM. So, I’m actually — I think most interpreters usually say that you are going to feel kind of sad in a way. It feels sad. But I think I have more excitement about the future. So I believe now it’s like I’m in this new adventure. It’s like starting on day one with the same excitement as if I started Reply on day one. So I am very, very, very happy of this.

Gabe Larsen: (23:39)
Good man. Well again, congratulations. I know everybody here at the Kustomer Crew is excited to have you join. So talked about a lot; the acquisition, best practices with using AI, a lot about bots and different AI capabilities. Summarize kind of the conversation for us as we think about customer service leaders trying to win and take today’s challenging times.

Omar Pera: (24:01)
So I would say any customer service leader knows that it’s very hard to keep satisfaction high while you are growing. That is very hard. So I would say make self-serve a priority in your company. Start very small, make it very easy to find answers and that, you bring that together with a customer service tool that is very good. Put in the context of a contact in the same screen such as Kustomer. I believe it’s actually the key to success. So my last point will be, really the technology is there. There’s no need for one year plans. You just need to start a small start today and really don’t wait, just implement these broadly and the benefits will come over time.

Gabe Larsen: (24:45)
Yeah. Yeah. By small and simple things great things come to pass, a wise man once told me that. So Omar, really appreciate your time. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of the things you’re doing, what’s the best way to do that? Like LinkedIn maybe or?

Omar Pera: (25:00)
Well omar@kustomer.com, omar@reply.ai, Twitter. I am Omar Pera on LinkedIn. Any time, I have DMS open on Twitter. So I really liked talking to people. So yeah, look me up on any channel.

Gabe Larsen: (25:20)
All right, well it sounds like you got a couple options there. So Omar, thanks so much for joining and for the audience. Have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (25:35)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Elevating the Voice of the Customer with Hillary Curran

Elevating the Voice of the Customer with Hillary Curran TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Hillary Curran to discuss customer experience and business operational strategies to make sure that the voice of the customer is heard. Hillary is currently the Director of Customer Service at Guru. She has been there for the last three years but initially started her career in nonprofits and technological development and support. She has helped develop and roll out software to aid those who want to help others. She is passionate about people; both coworkers and customers. In her interview with Gabe, she shared valuable insights about how to boost your customer experience and make the process easier for the company. Listen to the full episode below.

The Importance of Data Collection Both Internally and Externally

Having the right data at the right time is essential for the customer service industry. In order to ensure that customers are having a good experience, there has to be a way for them to leave feedback and make their voices heard. There are several things Hillary suggests companies should do to ensure customer data is recorded and acknowledged. For instance, Guru is a customer of their own service. Hillary states, “our whole company is also a customer, we use our own product internally. We want to make sure that we’re giving feedback about the product and what we are updating it accordingly.” Doing this has allowed Guru to get feedback in a myriad of ways and allows for employees to have complete empathy for the customer.

In addition to using your own product, Hillary notes that Slack channels are a great way to collect and share customer-gathered data with members of the whole company. This is a great tool that maximizes the amount of feedback received. Hillary mentions, “So a lot of data it’s being logged in different ways, but we try to make sure that it’s pushed to a channel on Slack so that most anyone across the company, even engineers or developers, can look through that and kind of learn as they go as well and potentially comment if they have ideas.” Doing this allows the voices of the customer to be heard throughout the company. Without internal data sharing, external feedback won’t ever be used to make a difference.

How to Share and Discuss Customer Feedback

After Hillary commented on the types of channels to use to communicate customer feedback, she describes the best way for that information to be shared. Sharing customer stories with all members of the company is a vital part of discussing customer feedback. Stories are powerful, motivating, and help all sectors of a company understand their customer better. Hillary suggests breaking down the company into pods with representatives from all departments is a great way to share the stories of the customers. These pods have engineers, designers, and members of the customer service team. Having Customer Service reps in the design process allows them to “bring those customer stories. Or, say ‘that actually looks like something that this one customer I’m working with may have an opinion about. I’d love to have you hop on a phone with them.’ And so just having a couple of people from customer experience in the design and engineering conversations can really help prevent a feature being built that maybe isn’t perfect yet or isn’t necessarily exactly what the customer wants.” Hillary continuously comments that weekly work meetings around discussing customer stories guarantees that something will be done in response to their feedback.

Why Closing the Communication Loop is Essential and How To Do It

Lastly, Hillary comments on what needs to be done after the data is collected, shared, evaluated, and acted upon. She points out that the next step for the company is to reach out to the customer thanking them for their feedback and letting them know what you have done with it. Hillary states, “every time we have a feature released that someone actually requested, we will pull out that report and send the customer a message letting them know that it’s being released at this time. … So yeah, we try to make sure that we’re always closing the loop on any feature requests that we get to make sure people understand that they’re not just like sending it to a black hole and that we actually are reading those and are taking them into account.” Whether it is through email or a phone call, communicating with customers who gave feedback is a great way to close the loop and ensure that the voice of the customer is heard.

To learn more about the voice of the customer and customer experience strategies, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Elevating the Voice of the Customer with Hillary Curran

Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going. Today we’re going to be talking about how to elevate the voice of the customer in a fully remote world, which we all find ourselves in at the moment. To do that, we brought on Hillary Curran. She’s currently the director of customer experience at Guru. Hillary, thanks for joining. How are you?

Hillary Curran: (00:29)
I’m doing great Gabe, it’s great to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah, it’s different circumstances. She’s in Philly. I’m in Jersey, but we’re probably actually not too far away from each other, but we’re definitely not going into the office. Our office is in New York, so we are living in the remote world. But I’m excited to jump into the topic. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and kind of what you guys do over there at Guru?

Hillary Curran: (00:51)
Of course. So yeah, as Gabe mentioned, I lead the customer experience team at Guru. At Guru, the customer experience makes up our support team as well as our customer success function. So we get to work with customers one-on-one as well as in a one-to-many capacity. So, whether that’s through like email or chat or ticketing, we do all of it. We’re really the voice of the customer throughout the whole company. My journey to Guru: I’ve been here almost three years, started actually my background is in nonprofits and more like technical support. So, I’ve done a lot of stuff, a lot of work with software, rolling out software, at different nonprofits to help optimize solutions and have always loved working with people. I found myself in a customer support role and now lead a customer experience team. So super excited to be able to use a lot of my experiences across different industries and sectors here at Guru.

Gabe Larsen: (01:46)
Yeah. That is fun to kind of be part of — you kind of work in the customer experience space obviously, but your company obviously does a lot around that, so that’s fun to be able to kind of have both pillars there. Well, let’s dive into this concept. Before we were starting, I love the framework, right? As you think about how you guys really amplify the customer’s voice in this fully remote environment, there’s kind of a framework you took me through. Can you kind of set the stage with that?

Hillary Curran: (02:17)
Totally. So, even early before we were a fully remote team as we are today, Guru had two offices, one in San Francisco and one in Philadelphia. And so we’ve had to make sure that most of our communication is not necessarily just in person, but also somehow equitably sourced across the team. So, it’s been really, it’s been a good challenge as we’ve grown to make sure that we have opportunities for people to give and share and collect feedback from their customers that they’re talking to or even prospects. So the three things that we try to do are collect it in a myriad of ways, create places for people to discuss and share the feedback that’s timely and not once every quarter. And then also close the loop with customers. So if we do release a feature or if something comes out that someone requested or had a really strong passionate feelings about, we want to let them know so that they understand that we’re actually listening and doing something about it.

Gabe Larsen: (03:15)
Yeah, no, I think that’s one of the ways you’ve got to kind of manage because the world is different. You guys sound like you had an advantage because you were a little bit remote to start and so you’ve already kind of gone down this path and were a little bit more prepared than some of us. But, whether we were ready or not, we now have to dive into that. So I want to hit some of these concepts; this idea of collect, discuss and kind of close the loop. I just think that’s a cool framework to start really making sure you do this the right way. Let’s start with collect. What do you mean by that and how does that kind of work?

Hillary Curran: (03:52)
So at Guru, we always, I mean — there’s a ton of feedback that comes from our customer experience team. So customer success managers are hearing information on phone calls or when they’re onsite or customer meetings. Our sales team is hearing information when they’re on the phone with prospects, even with customers currently. But, there’s also a ton of insights that we get from other folks on the team. So if marketing sends out something particular and they get certain replies, like anyone on the team can really contribute to collecting feedback. And it’s something also really great about Guru is that our whole company is also a customer. So we use our own product internally. And so we also want to make sure that we’re giving feedback about the product and what we want to see change. And so we try to make sure that there’s a place for anyone and everyone to share the stories that they’re hearing about customers or customer insights as well as share their own information or ideas that they have while they’re using Guru day to day and then their workflow.

Hillary Curran: (04:49)
So we have a myriad of Slack channels. One is product feedback, which is sort of like an all encompassing catch-all. And this is where if you forward a specific email to a specific email address, all of that feedback will get sent to this channel so people can read it and thread conversations about it. We have everyone who uses our — who is talking to our customers would also send emails this way. We also collect feedback in our customer support tool. So we tag conversations with feedback as well as the features or certain ideas so we can see trends based on tags. So we’re collecting it as many ways as we can. And then all of the feedback is pushed to a tool we use called product board, which then allows our product management team to categorize and organize that based on teams. So a lot of it’s being logged in different ways, but we try to make sure that it’s pushed to a channel on Slack so that most anyone across the company, even engineers or developers can look through that and kind of learn as they go as well and potentially comment if they have ideas.

Gabe Larsen: (05:48)
Got it. So Slack has been kind of the main way you’ve been able to start facilitating some of that feedback mechanism, the collecting aspect of it.

Hillary Curran: (05:57)
Totally.

Gabe Larsen: (05:57)
And then a couple of different channels to think through that and do it in an appropriate way. Do you feel — has there been flaws or lessons learned from that or has it been — it sounds like you guys have a pretty good machine there working.

Hillary Curran: (06:13)
I think the collection is easy. Everyone can log things, whether it’s an email or in some form or fashion and some software. I think the hard part is elevating the stories and the trends and finding those that we have. We started to create a couple of other Slack channels to really highlight strategic customers or stories that we think are more relevant for the specific time. So, we created one a couple months ago called customer stories. That’s a little bit more storytelling oriented and talks about like direct quotes that we’ve had from customers that send us about like maybe how they’re dealing with their new work from home experiences to try and make sure that we’re elevating the stories that need to get shared, or that everyone needs to hear more broadly, and then also highlighting those. So we created a — now it’s a virtual meeting — but it’s a virtual meeting for the entire company to attend. And so the customer success team gathers all of those trends and tries to highlight those in that meeting, for everyone to get a quick snapshot of nine specific stories and trends that we’ve seen over the course of the last three or four weeks.

Gabe Larsen: (07:18)
Interesting. So that’s some of the internal stuff and then it sounds like there was some stuff you’ve done externally as well to get some of that customer involved as well, whether it was check-ins or– how have you worked that angle?

Hillary Curran: (07:31)
Totally. So, it’s been challenging now that we can’t go on-site or we can’t — and a lot of folks don’t want to –there’s a lot of other priorities right now. And so getting people on the phone, we want to make sure, as the customer experience team, that we’re giving people space to also adapt to this new environment and not try to bother people. At the same time we want to make sure that we’re being helpful. And so we’ve created a series of questions that we ask our customer experience team to sort of think on each week. And if they can incorporate those into a conversation they’re having, whether it’s in zoom or in an email or over chat, at least they can make sure that they’re digging in on one specific question. And then we can talk about the responses to that each week with the management team to sort of see trends and how is this information impacting your business, or have you seen an uptick in your usage of our product over the past three weeks? Like some sort of specific question that they can kind of grapple with versus how is everything going, which is so broad and sometimes hard to — for someone to respond to when there’s just a lot going on.

Gabe Larsen: (08:36)
Yeah. Well it is. It’s like when you get on these zoom meetings sometimes and you’re, “How’s the weather?” It’s like, “Well, how’s the weather where you are?” You know, I don’t want to talk about the weather. I have plenty to do. So getting a little more detailed, a little more into the person rather than keeping that so broad. So those have been some of the ways you’ve collected the data. Talk a little bit about the share and discuss.

Hillary Curran: (08:59)
Yeah. So like I mentioned, we do this sort of company wide meeting where the customer success team and support team and each talk about a very specific story or two stories that they’ve found really relevant. A lot of these will be backed with data around the number of people that have asked for a feature or had an issue potentially. And so we really like to highlight different customers. We’ll often sometimes share clips of customers so that anyone who’s listening can actually hear the customer on the phone. Which means it just goes so much further for an engineer to hear someone have an issue or really want a specific feature request when they can see it and hear it in their own words. So we try to use the “voice of the customers,” that we call it, every quarter and we just did our first fully remote one two weeks ago. And everyone reached out right after saying how great it was and refreshing, especially in this time to have some good stories and sort of feedback. We try to highlight both all the good things and also some of the negative things that we want to make sure people know about. But that’s been a really great way for the team to connect fully remote to just join for an hour and learn about all the things that our customers are saying.

Gabe Larsen: (10:06)
So it’s almost like the state of CX or, I mean it’s like what’s going on, some ups and downs, tickets, product requests; a little bit of everything.

Hillary Curran: (10:16)
Yeah. And then the other thing that we do more sort of as a structure of our company is our product teams are actually organized into pods, which are sort of miniature product development teams based on features. So we have product design engineers all assigned to different pods and typically these pods would meet every day and talk about what they’re going to work on, what they’re implementing, what they’re designing. What we’ve started with early on is we have two to three customer success and support reps also in these pods that joined for their standups to make sure that as they’re talking about what they’re going to build and what they’re working on, they can bring those customer stories. Or, say “that actually looks like something that this one customer I’m working with may have an opinion about. Like I’d love to have you hop on a phone with them.” And so just having a couple of people from customer experience in the design and engineering conversations can really help prevent a feature being built that maybe isn’t perfect yet or isn’t necessarily exactly what the customer wants. And also make sure that we can iterate more quickly with direct customer feedback because we have a ton of customers that want to talk to our engineering team all the time. It’s very rare that you get insights like that, so they’re always like, I’d love to talk to them.

Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
Got it, got it. And so the pod structure probably enables that actually a little bit more effectively than a non pod structure. I can see how that may work.

Hillary Curran: (11:40)
Yeah. We used to have like a company wide design meeting where we would walk through all the designs and it becomes one of those like too many cooks in the kitchen where everyone has ideas. And so we had to scale it back and say, how can we focus a little bit and allow everyone to have a little bit of a say and opinion. So, it’s been really cool to see and it allows like some younger, more junior folks on the team, to get experience and get exposed to other departments that they may not have ever really worked with directly.

Gabe Larsen: (12:10)
Hmm. And talk to us a little bit about this “glows grows” idea this — what’s that?

Hillary Curran: (12:16)
Yeah. So even internally on our customer experience team, what each meeting that we have on Mondays every week to kick off the week, we do a glow and a grow; which is what can we be proud about? What happened really great with a customer and whether it was like how they launched the product or maybe they revamped their instance, or something that we want to grow from and learn from. And so a lot of these stories are really helpful and when we try to share them in the Slack channels and we often have other team members come to our customer experience meetings on Mondays and they always say that this is like their favorite part of the meeting cause they get to hear those customer stories and hear what’s going on in the Zoom rooms all around the world.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
Yeah. You got it. I mean that type of check-in I think brings everybody on the same page and obviously sets you up for the week on the right foot. We’ll do that on Mondays, if I can. So you obviously have some great strategies. Oh, I did want to hear about this lab. So talk to me about the lab, what’s that?

Hillary Curran: (13:17)
So many things we’ve implemented. So the last one that we did recently, Guru actually didn’t have a pretty robust account management team until recently. And so our customer experience and account management team has really started to work much more closely together. And in doing so — the way that our teams are structured customer success as well as account managers work together with accounts so it’s not like the CSM owns the entire customer experience. So we really wanted to make sure there was a place for both of those teams to come together and share specifically challenges they have maybe around renewal or maybe the champion that they worked with last or went on maternity leave and they have no idea who to reach out to again. Whatever the issue is, just having a place for those teams to come together and share their experiences has been really helpful.

Hillary Curran: (14:03)
So isn’t necessarily a customer voice, it’s more of like sharing customer stories to help influence other outcomes. And so it’s been really cool to have like maybe one more senior person on the team say, I’ve heard this scenario, I’ve had this experience before. Let me explain to you how I dealt with it with this one customer. And so that’s been really cool and it’s allowed folks to sort of share experiences without having to have — like right now we don’t have the ability to walk by and talk with someone or overhear a conversation at the office. So, we’re trying to kind of clear the space for those types of things to happen.

Gabe Larsen: (14:37)
Interesting. Well let’s get into this close the loop idea and how you bring it to the end. How do you look at that and play that?

Hillary Curran: (14:46)
Totally. So more of a one-to-one version would be for all those pods that we have, if there’s a customer success manager in those pods that has a customer that has requested a very specific feature that is gonna get implemented or that they know a feature that their customer would really love to give feedback on, they can legitimately engage the customer and tell them what’s going on, play by play as we’re developing it, as we’re adjusting it, which is really cool for the customer to get to have that kind of connection with that specific feature or workflow that’s going to get developed. So that’s one way that we try to close the loop, by just keeping the customers like, “Hey, I know you wanted us to create a feature where you could use emojis and making something up. It’s coming out, we’re working on it. Actually they’d love to talk to you about this one thing that they’re thinking of.” So just making sure that they can stay in the loop. And then more sort of from a systematic like one to many version we, because we’re cataloging and logging all of these different requests, every time we have a feature that gets released that someone did request, we will pull that report and then send them a message letting them know that it’s being released on this time. We really appreciated why they — all the time. Maybe it was two years ago, they asked for this, but it’s going to finally come out and thanks for your patience. So yeah, we try to make sure that we’re always closing the loop on any feature requests that we get to make sure people understand that they’re not just like sending it to a black hole and that we actually are reading those and are taking them into account.

Gabe Larsen: (16:16)
And have you found that there’s certain ways to do that? I mean, is email typically the best way to do that? Do you have a system to kind of track those lists? Because oftentimes people, they want to close the loop, but they drop the ball, they forget. There’s not a great way sometimes. Have you found a good way to do that or technology?

Hillary Curran: (16:33)
Yeah. Well, in our support system, if people ask for a specific feature and we log it, it captures their email address. So that’s one way. And then, um, if someone has requested it and we send it to the product board, we’ll also capture their email address so we can pull like a legitimate list of emails. What we often do is send a mass, either through chat, bot, sort of pop up message or sometimes we’ll actually post. We have a product called Pendo as well, but is sort of a guide that walks you through goals and such. So sometimes we can also make up a custom list inside of that and then like highlights specific things that we may have released to specific groups of users. So that’s been kind of a newer way that we’ve done it. So what we try not to send too many emails; but, whether it’s a chat or even if you just tell someone on Zoom, if you’re having a call with them, “Hey, this is coming out, we wanted you to know. Thank you for all of your feedback the 5,000 times that you told us that this was a really important feature. So, we try to do it and not just email because sometimes I think those get buried. Yeah. Most people are really responsive.

Gabe Larsen: (17:38)
That’s the problem, email. Now in our inbox, we’ve got so many more emails coming in because some of the things are not working. Well Hillary, we really appreciate you taking the time. Love the idea of that process that you outlined. How do you really think about collecting the data that you need in order to make the right decisions? How do you discuss that and share it amongst the people in the right way and make sure you close that loop. As we’re in these challenging times and thinking about your job, what would be your recommendation or advice as we leave today to other directors of customer experience who are struggling trying to manage some of these different aspects of the business?

Hillary Curran: (18:19)
Totally. I would say try not to be in every Slack channel like me. It gets overwhelming. I think that’s one. I would say that despite all of these different tools and tactics that we have, I think the number one thing that’s really important is to have leadership, buy-in, and also support to make sure that this stuff happens and that people actually show up to all of these meetings and events. And so very fortunate for me, at Guru our CEO and really all of our leadership team has been super supportive of sharing customer stories and making sure that any sort of issue that we see is popping up more and more should be raised to the engineering team. Making sure that there’s buy-in from them. And if there isn’t, trying to use the data that you have from all the different places that you can to really make a case for yourself as to why this is important. So trying to use the data is also really helpful. But I think having buy-in from your leadership team, even just to try out one of these solutions is key.

Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
I mean, the data thing, it’s been so relevant to me lately. I feel like sometimes in the customer world we opened up a little bit with that. It’s a little bit of hearsay or you hear one thing and it’s man, if there is a way to bring the data in and strong leaders can do that I think it can make a big difference. So Hillary is so fun to have you. Certainly wish you the best. If someone wants to get to know you or learn a little bit more about some of the fun things you guys are doing, what’s the best way to do that?

Hillary Curran: (19:44)
Yeah, you can just find me on LinkedIn, just Hillary Curran, or send me an email. I think my email is probably on it. It’s just hcurran@guru.com. I’m happy to always connect and I love talking about customer experience and knowledge management and support and all those good things that people need.

Gabe Larsen: (20:03)
Yeah, I know we were chatting about some other topics, so you might have to be a regular, we might have to bring you back next quarter or something.

Hillary Curran: (20:09)
I’d love to. I’d love to. Maybe next time we can do it in person.

Gabe Larsen: (20:12)
That’s true. That’s true. We’re not too far from each other. So again, thanks for joining and for everybody else. Have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (20:26)
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